Supreme Court asks why state shouldn’t pay for repatriation of migrant workersPetitioners say the government’s repatriation plan contradicts the provisions of the Foreign Employment Act, as well as the constitution.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
The Supreme Court has issued a ‘show-cause’ notice to the government as to why the state shouldn’t pay for the rescue and repatriation of destitute and unemployed citizens unable to buy a ticket home or pay for a hotel room for quarantine.
A single bench of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana issued the order responding to a petition filed by four lawyers on Wednesday, against the “Covid-19 returnee order” issued by the government. The lawyers challenged provisions in the order that make it mandatory for migrant workers wanting to return home to pay for their own ticket.
“The provisions in the government repatriation plan contradict with Section 75(2) of the Foreign Employment Act, 2007 which talks about the rescue and repatriation of migrant workers during disasters and distress,” said Anurag Devkota, one of the petitioners.
The writ petition filed by advocates Barun Ghimire, Prabin Subedi, Anurag Devkota, and Binaya Rimal, named the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers, Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Ministry of Health and Foreign Employment Board Secretariat as defendants.
“Making workers foot all the bills is also against the provision in the act on the use of the foreign employment welfare fund for the purpose of rescue and repatriation,” he added.
“The show-cause notice was issued today regarding provisions in the government order inconsistent with the act,”said Devkota.
The government’s plan to repatriate Nepali workers in dire need to return home, has been criticised for making workers, who send remittances to support the country’s economy, pay for their own tickets and quarantine facilities.
According to Devkota, the Supreme Court refused to issue an interim order, but asked the government why it can’t bring home needy and disadvantaged migrant workers for free.
Petitioners and migrant rights activists have been demanding that either the state or the foreign employment welfare fund pay for the repatriation of workers who can not pay for themselves. According to them, provisions in the new order that require migrant workers to pay for their international tickets and quarantine is also inconsistent with the constitution.