Evacuation flights to continue at least until June 30As the first phase of repatriation of Nepalis stranded abroad ended on June 25, a total of 9,413 citizens have returned home from 22 countries.
The government has decided to extend the first phase of its programme to repatriate Nepalis stranded abroad by five more days.
The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation had earlier said that evacuation flights in the first phase will go on from June 1o-25 (Thursday).
As the first phase of repatriation flights completed on Thursday, thousands of Nepalis are still waiting to come home. That’s why the Ministry of Tourism has decided to allow flights from various countries at least until June 30, officials said.
“A meeting of various ministries, on Thursday, decided to continue the evacuation flights up to June 30. However, the number of flights, their schedules and destinations have not been finalised yet,” said Rajan Paudel, deputy spokesperson at the Ministry of Tourism.
The government has been repatriating Nepalis stranded abroad on chartered flights as regular international flights to and from the country remain suspended since March 22 in view of the Covid-19 crisis.
“The number of flights required to bring Nepali from various countries will be decided only after gathering data on the number of Nepalis who want to to return home,” Paudel told the Post. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is talking to Nepali missions abroad to come up with data on Nepalis who want to return before deciding on the number of flights.”
During the first round of repatriation since the Covid-19 lockdown, the ministry had permitted a total of 67 flights, which included both chartered flights and flights provided by labour destination countries such as Kuwait for undocumented workers.
According to Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre, Nepalis have been evacuated from Malaysia, Myanmar, the UAE, Japan, Australia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Oman, Bahrain, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, South Korea, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.
The first two flights at the beginning of the evacuation plan sponsored by the Kuwaiti government had brought over 300 Nepali women migrant workers home.
Of the 67 flights, Nepal Airlines was authorised to conduct 24, Himalaya Airlines 19 and other foreign airlines 24. Although the airfare for repatriation flights was capped, returnee Nepalis were asked to pay for the ticket.
However, not all the flights could fly as per schedules. As the repatriation began, dates and the timetable for several flights were changed for various reasons.
“There were changes in flight schedules. Some Nepal Airlines flights could not be operated,” said Paudel. “Now, we need to operate flights to countries where we could not fly before.”
On Thursday, 1,185 Nepalis returned home, from the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Japan and the United Kingdom.
During the lockdown, a total of 9,413 Nepali citizens have returned home by flights, starting from one Nepali citizen who returned from Malaysia on June 3 in a cargo plane carrying relief materials. Two days later, a Myanmar government-sponsored flight brought home 26 Nepalis. Another flight from the United Arab of Emirates (UAE) repatriated 169 Nepalis.Government estimates had shown that nearly 25,000 were expected to return during the first phase of the repatriation plan. This means that a large number of Nepalis are still waiting to return home.