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Nepal ends ban on housemaids working in the UAE

Anwar Ahmad, ABU DHABI: Nepal has lifted its year-long travel ban imposed on housemaids and reduced the age women can be employed at but new rules will apply for those seeking a domestic worker from the country.

The Nepalese government has reduced the age restriction from 30 to 20 but individuals in the UAE who wish to hire a Nepalese maid will now have to go through an agency, as opposed to contacting the country’s embassy in Abu Dhabi directly.

In an interview with The National, the Nepalese ambassador to the UAE, Dhananjay Jha, said: “From now on, only registered recruitment agencies with the mission can process domestic helpers’ documents and the embassy directly will not accept any such applications.”

Local agencies registered with the Nepali embassy and agencies registered with the Nepalese government in Nepal can send and receive, he said.

“Then the agency here would hand over the domestic helps to the individual,” added Mr Jha.

Documents that were previously processed by the embassy will now have to be submitted to a registered agency, which will in turn submit documents to the mission for its approval.

“In such a scenario, if any exploitation happens to the maid, or her rights are ignored, the recruiting agency will be responsible for this,” Mr Jha said.

On the age reduction, Mr Jha added: “It’s been decided by the Nepalese government and we have to implement this.”

According to the Nepalese embassy, the decision to lift the ban was taken about six weeks ago and had nothing to do with the earthquake that killed about 9,000 people and devastated the country in April. However, many people both in the UAE and Nepal are unaware of the change of policy.

“We will put details on the embassy’s website,” Mr Jha said.

So far, not a single UAE agency has registered with the embassy.

The ambassador said Nepalese women currently being recruited to the UAE, and to other countries, are being recruited through different illegal channels and many of them are moving abroad under false pretences.

For instance, some are being issued with foreign visas to work as cleaner by employment agencies but are then drafted into be housemaids.

“[Using] such means to work abroad is landing them in problem situations,” Mr Jha said.

Nepal stopped allowing its citizens to move abroad to work as domestic helpers in July last year after widespread complaints of exploitation and harassment.

Before the ban, only women aged over 30 were permitted to travel abroad to become housemaids.

“If the housemaid faces any problem and complains to the embassy, the mission will call the recruiting agency to resolve the issue,” the ambassador said.

Despite processes in place to protect domestic workers, many maids flee their sponsor and seek refuge at the embassy.

“There was a temporary ban and age bar but still workers used to come through different means. Unscrupulous agents bring them in with lucrative promises,” he said.

“But they end up facing problems here and report to the mission.”

Eight housemaids are currently living at the embassy’s shelter house, a number that has remained steady for months, with some coming and others going.

As part of the new rules potential maids are screened to see if they are mentally and physically fit to take up domestic jobs, Mr Jha said.

Before the ban sponsors had to give attested documents to the Nepalese embassy, put up a guarantee of Dh5,000 and ensure their maid would earn at least Dh900 per month, in addition to room and board.

Details of the new rules are to be made available on the embassy’s website soon.

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