In 2020 Nepal’s labour ministry called for a “reduction in misalignments” between different parts of the government, acknowledging that inter-agency coordination is a key priority and challenge. There are clear examples where poor coordination - for example the signing of significant bilateral MOUs without making plans to establish diplomatic missions - is likely to directly impact migrant workers. Domestically, the Department of Foreign Employment’s (DOFE) investigation capacity and skills have been the subject of concern for several years and appear out of step with the scale of the abuses identified in Nepal’s recruitment industry. A 2020 MOU between DOFE and the police may help; until recently migrant workers could not bring recruitment cases to the police unless they amounted to trafficking, and for all other cases workers had to file complaints with the understaffed DOFE in Kathmandu. This should allow police to carry out preliminary investigations based on worker complaints and to fully investigate unregistered recruiters, referring only agency cases to DOFE. DOFE’s regulatory and investigative role has been severely undermined by corruption, which can have a direct impact on worker outcomes. Numerous senior officials have been arrested for accepting bribes to remove recruitment agencies from government blacklists.
Migrant workers have been affected by lack of coordination between ministries in Qatar. Labour protections, which are managed by ADLSA, are often undermined by parallel immigration and residence laws – notably the sponsorship system – which are administered by the Ministry of Interior. Since 2018, there has been some improvement in interagency cooperation attendant with the labour reform process. Qatar has also worked in conjunction with the ILO to upgrade its inspectorate, but there remains a tendency among inspectors not to engage directly with workers during inspection visits, in part because of language barriers. Where employers or recruiters violate rights, Qatar generally opts to sanction offenders with fines and “blacklisting”. ADLSA lacks strong enforcement powers in relation to violations of the labour law, while the Ministry of Interior rarely uses its powers to investigate labour trafficking. Nevertheless there has been an increase in the number of companies referred for prosecution, with 2,500 violations referred to the Public Prosecutor in 2019. There is little information available about the enforcement of anti-corruption measures to punish individuals accepting bribes or “kickbacks” from origin country recruitment agencies in exchange for demand letters.
Recommendations to the Government of Nepal:
- Pending the adoption of a zero-cost migration model, fully enforce penalties against recruitment agencies charging fees above the legal limit, in accordance with relevant provisions of the FEA.
- Significantly increase the Department of Foreign Employment’s investigative capacity, by increasing staffing and ensuring that all staff undergo rigorous training.
- Ensure that the signing of the 2020 DOFE-Nepali police MOU is followed up with increased coordination between DOFE and law enforcement authorities and greater involvement by the police in tackling recruitment fraud and abuse.
- Increase resources devoted to investigating and prosecuting corruption in DOFE; hold accountable any official accused of demanding or accepting illegal payments for access to government migration programmes, including through referring them to law enforcement agencies, and make information publicly available, on at least an annual basis, on the number and nature of such cases identified.
Recommendations to the Government of Qatar:
- Continue strengthening the capacity of the ADLSA labour inspectorate and ensure that it has the necessary resources as well as linguistic and investigatory skills to conduct private interviews with workers during visits and identify cases of serious abuses beyond the non-payment of wages, including in relation to recruitment practices and ensuring that employer, rather than workers, are paying the costs of recruitment.
- Enhance ADLSA monitoring of recruitment agencies to ensure it accurately assesses and transparently reports on private employment institutions’ efforts to ensure worker protection, including fee payment and responsiveness to worker grievances.
- Institute labour inspections of private residences hiring domestic workers - including unannounced visits.
- Undertake proactive investigations (and where there is sufficient evidence, criminal prosecutions) into corrupt recruitment practices on the part of employers and recruiters, and human trafficking.