Tighter employment rules for Indian workers in UAE to curb crooked job agents

Indian community centres and representatives have welcomed the introduction of an online registration system designed to put an end to the exploitation of workers.

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ABU DHABI // A new online hiring system for Indian workers will curb the activities of unscrupulous recruiting agents who exploit jobseekers.

The system will prevent agents from charging exorbitant and illegal fees, and halt the practice of contract substitution, when workers sign one agreement at home but are given another with inferior conditions to sign when they arrive in the UAE.

The new eMigrate system, in conjunction with the UAE’s own strict rules on employment, will also help nurses who are vulnerable to similar exploitation.

Introduced by India’s ministry of overseas Indian affairs, eMigrate took effect on June 1. Employers who want to recruit staff from India must register on a dedicated website to be approved by Indian embassies and consulates before an employment contract is finalised.

Employers can also search for staff on the website – emigrate.gov.in – and apply for a permit to recruit for themselves or through approved agents.

There are 2.5 million Indian workers in the UAE, about a million of whom are from the southern state of Kerala.

“Many unscrupulous recruiting agencies have been cheating workers and nurses, but this new rule will stop such exploitation,” said Mohan N V, president of the Kerala Social Centre in Abu Dhabi.

“Private agencies have been cheating workers back home in India and taking too much money in recruitment and employment visa fees.

“The new rules will widely improve the recruitment of Indian workers if the law is enforced effectively.”

Other strict rules have been introduced to protect nurses.

“The emigration of nurses for overseas employment in the UAE will require prior emigration clearance from protector of emigrants’ offices in India,” the Indian embassy said.

Nurse recruitment will be done through three state-run agencies: the non-resident Keralites’ affairs department, or Norka; the Overseas Development and Employment Promotion Consultants, also in Kerala; and the Overseas Manpower Corporation in Tamil Nadu state.

Indians who wish to work overseas will have to visit attestation centres in Kerala and Tamil Nadu before they can move abroad for work. There are no fees to be paid.

“All Indian associations in the UAE have been very keen for such rules and kept spreading awareness among fellow Indians who are willing to come here for jobs to take authorised routes to avoid unnecessary exploitation,” said Y A Rahim, president of the Indian Association in Sharjah, which has campaigned for more protection for Indian workers.

Yesu Seelan, president of Abu Dhabi Malayalee Samajam, another Indian social centre, said many people had been exploited by unscrupulous agents with false promises.

Mr Seelan believes the new rules will further ensure workers their rights, when coupled with the UAE’s strict rules on employment.

“Different agents back home exploited different amounts of money, ranging from 50,000 Indian rupees [Dh2,864] to 100,000 a head,” he said.

The recruitment system will be phased in depending on the number of people being hired.

“Foreign employers recruiting more than 150 workers are required to register online with immediate effect to raise demand and seek a permit to recruit directly or select recruitment agents,” the embassy said.

Employers recruiting between 50 and 150 workers are required to register online before June 30, while those recruiting 20 to 50 and fewer than 20 Indian workers are required to register online before July 31 and August 31.

Further details can be obtained from indembassyuae.org.