Rights body urges government to study situation of Nepalis stranded in foreign countriesThe National Human Rights Commission has asked the government to make arrangements for food and shelter for Nepali workers in foreign labour destinations and to plan for their rescue, repatriation and reintegration if the situation further worsens.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Nepal has urged the government to conduct a quick survey on Nepali workers stranded in the foreign labour destinations amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
The rights advocacy group has called on the Nepal government to collect details on the conditions of Nepali workers in major labour receiving countries and gather the number of those who need to be brought back immediately.
Drawing the attention of the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security regarding the workers’ plight abroad, the NHRC suggests that the rapid survey could be conducted in collaboration between the ministries of labour and foreign affairs or by organisations working in the sector of migrant rights before drafting a detailed plan for rescuing needy Nepali workers during the pandemic.
“The NHRC has been learning about the poor condition of Nepali workers in the Gulf countries, Malaysia and South Korea from its reporting, ministries of Labour and Foreign Affairs and Nepali missions abroad, human rights commissions of labour hosting countries and media reports,” Sudip Pathak, a member of the NHRC told the Post. “Nepali workers are mostly living in fear of losing their jobs and being infected with the coronavirus.”
According to Pathak, Nepali workers need support as their income has plummeted with reduced working hours. They are struggling for food without money and languishing in crammed rooms, suffering physical and mental stress during the public health crisis.
“Through such rapid study, we will know the actual situation of Nepali workers and what can be done to ensure their safety,” said Pathak. “And, if they need to be repatriated, then the government must have a master plan in place for all phases—from their repatriation to keeping them in quarantine to providing them with employment opportunities once they are in Nepal.”
Nepali workers have been languishing in major labour destinations. The ongoing lockdown in host countries has further worsened their situation whereas the travel restrictions imposed by Nepal and also labour hosting nations have affected their plans for returning home.
Various migrants’ rights organisations have called on the government to bring Nepali workers back from the Persian Gulf and Malaysia, which are under the grip of Covid-19.
The NHRC has also asked the government to manage the repatriation of Nepali workers, prioritising their critical condition, after the host countries relax their lockdowns and the situation is normal for their return. The rights group has also urged the government to complete all the preparations and gear up for the situation if Nepali workers must be brought home.
“Countries like Kuwait have provided general amnesty for undocumented workers, including Nepali nationals, to return home without paying any fines and having to pay for air tickets,” said Pathak. “The Nepal government should also utilise such schemes to bring back its workers safely.”
The rights organisation has suggested allocating sufficient budget to Nepali missions abroad either by using the Migrant Workers’ Welfare Fund, maintained by the Foreign Employment Board, or through separate government funds to manage food and accommodation for stranded Nepali workers as long the Covid-19 pandemic remains. The NHRC has directed the government to immediately release a budget to the Nepali missions so that they can provide food aid to Nepali workers.
The Labour Ministry says different committees are working to assess the situation of Nepali workers in foreign countries, said Pathak. “Our concern is that the Nepal government should be ready in case of a major crisis. After the survey, there should be a mechanism to respond and for monitoring through different phases.”