FORUM-ASIA urges government to ensure safety of migrant workers returning from IndiaThe human rights group has raised its concern about heavy congestion and lack of necessary facilities in Nepali quarantine centres.
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) has raised its concern regarding the management of Nepali migrant workers returning from India.
Inadequate quarantine facilities and mismanagement of Nepal’s migrant workers returning from India could lead to a human rights crisis, the organisation has warned.
In a joint statement, the Forum Asia and seven of its member organisations urged the Nepal government to ensure safe border-crossing and adequate quarantine facilities to protect its returning migrant workers.
“Driven by poverty, environmental degradation or social instability, a large proportion of Nepali migrants are from the most vulnerable communities and worked as daily wagers,” reads the statement released on Friday. “Without sufficient social protection, they are prone to shock and adverse impact. Being exposed to a pandemic would only exacerbate their pre-existing vulnerabilities and poor human rights condition.”
After both Nepal and India went into a complete lockdown in March, thousands of Nepali migrant workers, employed in India were stranded in various parts of the country. Many walked for several hundred kilometres to reach the Nepal border. However, due to the border closure they were stranded on the Indian side.
India has been one of the most popular destinations for Nepali migrants due to its proximity and the 1,870 km-long open border. An estimated 37.5 percent of the two million absent population of Nepal work in India.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, both the Nepal and India governments were unable to manage the cross-border movement in a coordinated manner,” FORUM-ASIA said. “Since late March, thousands of migrant workers from both sides of the border have been left stranded due to lockdown measures imposed by both countries.”
The government came up with the plan to allow Nepali citizens living in India and other countries to return earlier this month. The Nepal government decided to allow entry through 20 border points.
But after they were allowed entry, the returnee workers were kept in poorly-run quarantine centres.
FORUM-ASIA has said that heavy congestion and lack of basic facilities in Nepali quarantine centres have raised the fears of coronavirus spreading in the country. The organisation has also pointed out the cases of migrant workers fleeing from quarantine centres.
More than 500 migrant workers have escaped out of fear and due to the influx of returnees in a short period of time, the authorities have struggled to provide basic needs such as food and accommodation for the returning migrants, according to the statement.
FORUM-ASIA and its member organisations have said that the rights and safety of migrant workers should not be compromised especially during a public health crisis.
They have called on the Nepal government to coordinate with the Indian government to facilitate the safe return of both Nepali and Indian migrants from both sides of the border and ensure the meaningful participation of migrant workers in the decision-making process of their concern and provide adequate social safety net.
They have also urged the government to allocate sufficient budget and establish a strong monitoring mechanism to ensure the full implementation of policies and measures responding to the pandemic, ensure equal access to safe shelter, suitable sanctuary, food, water, healthcare services, and caregiving support during periods of obligatory quarantine.