Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government has sought an immediate intervention of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to relax norms for Indian nurses who wish to work in the Middle East.
Speaking to reporters here on Monday, State Minister for Diaspora K.C. Joseph said that unless the MEA steps in by relaxing norms, thousands of Indian nurses waiting to go to the Middle-East in pursuit of a prosperous career will face ruin.
"Since May last year, the MEA has directed all employers in the Middle East, to first contact the Indian embassies in the Middle East if they have to recruit Indian nurses.
"Since then it has become mandatory for all nurses to get emigration clearance before proceeding for jobs. Consequent to these stringent norms, nurses from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and the Philippines are cashing in on these opportunities and our (Indian) nurses have lost out very badly," said Joseph.
He said that under the new rules, nurses' recruitment to the Middle East can be handled by only three agencies in the country -- two are Kerala-based organisations and one comes under the Tamil Nadu government.
"Before these restrictions came, on an average every month around 1,000 nurses used to get jobs in the Middle East. After May, till now it was just 217 nurses who got new jobs in Saudi Arabia, 502 went to the UAE and 150 to Oman. Employers there are just not willing to go through these new stringent recruitment process," said Joseph.
Joseph said that on a recent visit to Delhi, they brought these anomalies to the attention of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who promised to urgently intervene to resolve the issue.
"We have suggested to the MEA that while there should be a mechanism to prevent unfair practises, the employers should be allowed to make direct contact with the three agencies that have been given permission to recruit nurses," said Joseph.
"Also we have asked for stringent action to be taken against those fly-by-night recruiters here, who take people for a ride when it comes to recruitment for other trades to the Middle East," he added.
Appreciating the MEA's support in evacuation of Kerala nurses from Iraq and Libya in the recent past, Joseph said: "It would be in the best interest of all to have the OIA (Overseas Indian Affairs) ministry restored because it will be practically impossible to approach MEA for issues relating to the diaspora all the time."
"We wish that at least a Minister of State is posted to handle the OIA, so there is a contact point for us," Joseph added.