Nepali embassies’ ill-treatment of workers continues even during pandemicA video gone viral on social media shows an official at the UAE embassy cold- shoulder a Nepali man in distress.
Nepali missions abroad have been criticised time and again for not empathising with citizens in distress, and for not doing enough to help them during a crisis. The issue has yet again come to the fore in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A video that went viral on social media recently shows a worker plead to an official outside the gates of the Nepali embassy in the United Arab of Emirates (UAE) seeking help to return home. The Nepali man asks the embassy staffer where he is supposed to stay until he is repatriated.
But an embassy official, speaking from the other side of the gate through a speaker mounted on the wall, plainly tells the worker that the embassy was not responsible for their accommodation, and that he should manage it on his own.
“I came here on a labour permit,” retorts the man. “I did not come here on my own.”
After the video went viral, the embassy and its staffers have been widely criticised for their rude behaviour. The embassy was forced to issue a a statement over the incident later on Tuesday.
“The embassy’s attention has been drawn towards a video circulating on social media with the voice of an embassy official,” said the embassy. “What is heard on the video does not represent the official position of the embassy.”
Such cold treatment is not new for Nepali workers working and living in the Persian Gulf countries and Malaysia. Most of the time, these workers feel humiliated, further anguished and have to return empty-handed after visiting the embassy hoping to find a solution to their problems.
Ramesh Budhathoki, who has been stranded in the United Arab of Emirates (UAE) for several months now, said he has had similar experience whenever he has reached out to Nepali embassies.
“What everyone saw in that video posted online, that’s what happens. The embassy officials don’t even speak properly with visitors,” said Budhthoki. “They have installed a device at the gate which is never open. If you speak to the device, someone from the inside responds.”
Budhathoki, who has been stranded without a job for months in Sharjah, the third-largest city in the United Arab Emirates, also knocked on the door of Nepali embassy recently.
“When we went to the embassy with journalists from different media, they came out and listened to us,” said Budhathoki. “We need a minimum of 500 dirhams to travel to the embassy in Abu Dhabi from Sharjah, and even after spending so much to reach the embassy, we hardly get any response from the officials.”
“People are visiting the embassy and organising sit-ins outside the gate. We have not seen the ambassador even once during our several visits to the embassy.”
Earlier, this month, another Twitter post said the Nepal embassy in the UAE had called the police on Nepali workers gathered at the embassy seeking repatriation. However, the Post could not independently verify whether the police were called by the embassy or they were on regular patrol.
This is not the situation at one single embassy in the region. All missions in major labour destination countries are flooded with similar complaints on their social media pages.
The number of Nepali workers reaching out to embassies based in labour destination countries, where exploitation of Nepali workers is rampant, has multiplied in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Stranded without food and no hope of income, workers have been thronging the embassies to return home.
Their most common complaints is that the embassy does not respond to their calls and messages although all the embassies have said their hotlines are open 24 hours. Nepali workers waiting to return home at the Kuwaiti government’s shelter camps also complained that embassy staffers neither visit them nor receive their calls.
“What is happening about our repatriation from Kuwait? Can you call the Nepal embassy? They are not receiving our calls. They might pick up your call,” Surendra Thakuri, a migrant worker from Morang texted the Post.
According to Kul Prasad Karki, chairperson of the Pravasi Nepali Coordination Committee, a non-governmental organisation working for the welfare of migrant workers, treatment of Nepali workers by foreign missions abroad hasn’t been satisfactory.
But staffers are not the ones to blame for all the problems, he said. “Such treatments and responses to their problems are triggered by several factors such as the availability of limited resources, will power of the staffers and capability of the officials, among others.” he said.
“For example, one or two staffers are appointed to handle phone calls,” Karki told the Post. “But workers expect staffers to resolve their problems immediately and at times only share their sides of the story in case of disputes with their employers.”
Karki said incidents like the one shown in the video are a wake-up call to the government to enhance the capacity of missions abroad to deal with the workers’s problems.
“Most of the time, embassy officials don’t bother solving the problems of the workers. They are inclined towards sending them home,” said Karki.