Nurse recruitment fraud | Journey for overseas dream job goes awry

Incidents of cheating job aspirants might have been the result of bypassing a prudent and protocol-driven system, says State agency

When Susan Saji, a nurse from near Pathanapuram landed in Dubai leaving behind her three-year-old child back at home, she was brimming with hope of a highly paid job.

But that dream dissipated in no time, as it emerged that the job was a chimera and that the ₹2.30 lakh paid to a Kochi-based recruitment agency was practically for nothing. Since then she has been stranded in the United Arab Emirates along with, according to her allegations, hundreds of similarly cheated job aspirants.

"We were recruited on the ground of administering the anti-Covid-19 vaccines and were promised upwards of ₹1 lakh as salary. On arrival we were asked to go on quarantine for three weeks and only later did we realise that quarantining wasn’t even in force in UAE at the time we came here. As the job wasn’t forthcoming we demanded our money back and were given four different failed deadlines, the last of which was May 10," said Reena Rajan, a nurse of nine years standing and is now closeted with Ms. Saji in an apartment. They were privileged enough to have escaped the miserable single apartment into which about 15 persons were piled on thanks to the intervention of their families.

While a few of them had flown back home trusting the agency’s promise to repay them on return, the majority have chosen to stay put. "We have since then petitioned local MLA K. B. Ganesh Kumar and Ramesh Chennithala besides petitioning the Chief Minister’s Office. Our families are now about to lodge a complaint with the Kochi city police," said Ms. Saji. They allege that the agency was in the process of recruiting more on the same pretext from Hyderabad.

Fortunately, their decision to go public about their plight has helped to land them jobs in Sharjah.

As painful is their experience of getting stranded in a foreign country in the middle of a pandemic, Norka Roots, the State government agency looking after the welfare of Malayali expatriates, feel that it might have been the result of bypassing a prudent and protocol-driven system in place since 2015 precisely for avoiding similar scenarios of job fraud.

‘Exploiting the surge in demand’

"This could be happening as there is a surge in demand for health workers abroad for a short period for vaccination and many countries have outsourced the recruitment that is being exploited by unlicensed private recruitment agencies. These agencies may not be willing to channel the recruitment through Norka Roots since it takes nearly 25-30 days to complete the process. In fact, a couple of agencies approached us with a request for exemptions for such short term recruitments. We, however, declined and made it ambly clear that whether short term or long term, a well-established system could not be given a short shrift," said a Norka Roots official.

He said that the journey of such recruitees may have been facilitated by a change in the job title in visa to ‘technician’ or even ‘domestic worker’ as anyone being recruited as nurse needs emigration clearance and hence would have been stopped at the emigration desk of the airport.

As per the existing recruitment system of Norka Roots, both the foreign employer and the recruitment agency should register in the online portal and the former should be validated by the Indian embassy or mission in the country concerned. The Ministry of External Affairs clear the travel documents of the recruitees and facilitate emigration clearance. Then a job contract involving all three stakeholders – employer, employee, and the recruitment agency – is chalked out, which ensures that any breach in contract makes both the employer and the agency accountable.

"Bypassing this system, runs the risk of getting exposed to job frauds and loss of huge money. While recruitments facilitated through government agencies like Norka Roots 150 other approved recruitment agencies entail a service charge of only ₹35,000 as permitted under the Emigration Act, unregulated agencies charge fees running into lakhs," he said.

Norka Roots has already alerted the Indian embassy in UAE about the alleged job fraud. The problem is that the victims of such job frauds prefer repatriation only as a last resort and desparately try for some jobs abroad forced mostly by the financial liabilities incurred to fuel their overseas jobs, the officer said.

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