ABU DHABI // Nepalese workers applying to come to the UAE are being rejected at a rate of about 10 a day, the country’s embassy has said.
The rejections make up about one third of the daily applicants, and the figure is growing due to stringent measures enforced by the government in Kathmandu in an attempt to safeguard the country’s citizens from exploitation and trafficking.
Just last month 35 government officials in Nepal were arrested for allegedly sending 77 workers to Qatar illegally. The 17 department of foreign employment officials and 18 from the department of immigration face jail for forging documents that allowed the workers to travel illegally.
“The embassy is flooded with workers’ demands lately and, after the arrest of some 35 senior officers in Kathmandu, they are not allowing anyone to flout the country’s laws as they are afraid of being sacked or getting arrested, so nobody takes bribes,” said Dhananjay Jha, the Nepalese ambassador to the UAE.
Every individual or group visa application, whether for work or for visiting, has to be approved by the embassy in Abu Dhabi.
The rule, which was agreed a year ago but only enforced in recent months, has essentially banned any visit by a Nepalese citizen to the UAE unless they have approval from the embassy.
“The government has made this mandatory as when workers are dealt with directly they are exploited. They are brought here on a visit visa then are sent somewhere else, using the UAE as an easy destination to move people around,” he said.
“People bring women on visit visas and push them to work as housemaids and, sometimes, send them to other countries.”
When asked about citizens’ freedom of movement, Mr Jha said the rules were for the good of the Nepalese people.
“They have the right to freedom of movement but these steps are for their own safety and benefit,” he said.
“This is awkward but when they come and have problems here, the state has to help them out. They come on a visit visa and travel to Iraq and Afghanistan for lucrative offers and get stuck there, then the country helps them.”
Heera Devi Paudel, a labour attache at the embassy, said that if a worker does not have any blood relatives in the UAE, their visa will not be approved.
She added that criteria for work visas involves assessing factors such as salary, accommodation and the reputation of the company and then the embassy follows up with the workers once they are settled into their jobs. If the workers are unhappy, the embassy will not deal with the company again.
The issues of exploitation and trafficking are becoming more severe for Nepal as more of its citizens arrive here.
Two years ago there were 145,000 Nepalese expatriates in the UAE. Now, that figure is closer to 200,000, the ambassador said.
Labourers from Nepal are also less costly to hire than those from many other countries – a Nepalese worker can be recruited for about Dh900 to Dh1,000 a month, but a Filipino, for example, could not be hired at this salary range, the ambassador added.
Ms Paudel said: “We reject 10 to 12 workers’ applications every day at the mission.
“Now, in Nepal, the government has tightened the noose on corrupt officials and so nobody takes the risk of being nabbed.”
She said that, previously, only about one third of visa applications came through the embassy but now all applications do.
The only exception to that is for group visas for more than 50 people, which can still be processed through the government in Kathmandu. This facilitates the need for workers from large, reputable businesses.