Prospective Gulf migrants do not always have complete information about job opportunities in the Gulf, and employers do not always know how to recruit workers in distant countries. Recruitment agencies therefore are a crucial link between these two parties. If industry best practices are maintained, agencies are in a position to ensure the best outcomes for both parties.
Recruitment Fee Extortion
Recruitment agencies solicit fees from workers for various purposes including medical tests, a processing fee, document checks, pre-departure orientation, flight tickets, insurance and housing costs prior to departure. While many countries limit how much workers can be charged ($328 in India or until recently $716 in Nepal), the reality is that migrants pay far higher fees.
Governments in origin countries seek to protect their citizens from paying exorbitant fees to secure a job, and to prevent exploitation. However, recruitment agents often transgress these laws by charging workers excess fees , under guise of medical tests, training fees, and “unanticipated charges.” Few migrants are actually aware that these rates are inflated and illegal. Additionally, workers who have begun the recruitment process are already heavily invested in migrating abroad. They would have borrowed money to fund their move, and have prepared their families and themselves emotionally for the transition. When a high financial and emotional price has already been paid, and when high salaries are promised in return, few are put off by agency fees.
When potential migrants reach the end of the recruitment process, they are often asked to deposit their passports to increase their retention rates and prevent them from changing their minds about going abroad. Many agencies also charge a heavy security deposit at the beginning of the recruitment process in order to ensure that approved candidates actually migrate. Sometimes, employers and recruitment agencies collude to deduct the wages from the worker each month until the recruitment charges are covered, at interest. If a worker is unable to pay the high recruitment fee upfront, they sign a document authorizing the employer to deduct a percentage of his monthly salary with interest. The employer pays the agency the required fees, and the employer collects it from the worker. The migrant only receives his full salary upon the completion of payment of his recruitment fees.
With low salaries, and high recruitment fees it can take workers months to years to pay back a recruitment fee, with interest, to an employer. Thus, many workers find themselves in bonded labor-like conditions, without the option to leave their employer until they break even on the charges. Other migrants who have paid the fees by taking out a high interest loan, may also be forced to work in unfavorable conditions until they pay off their debts back home.