Government partially reopens foreign employment hit by pandemic for monthsFor now, officials will issue labour permits only for countries deemed safe for work.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
Nepal’s foreign employment sector is finally reopening after the government decided to allow aspirant workers to go abroad months after it stopped issuing permits.
A Cabinet meeting on Sunday decided to resume issuing labour permits for migrant workers after a hiatus of over five months.
Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security Rameshwar Ray Yadav, said the government decided to start issuing labour permits for certain countries. “Labour permits will now be issued for countries safe for workers, at least for now. Also, we need to assess the demand for workers from countries deemed safe,” Yadav told the Post. “Labour permits will not be issued for all the countries right away. We have to exercise caution.”
The minister, however, did not reveal the names of the countries designated safe for Nepali workers and the exact date when the Department of Foreign Employment will start issuing the permits.
Many Nepali workers who were looking forward to living and working in countries of the Persian Gulf region and Southeast Asia had to postpone their plans after the government halted issuing permits since mid-March. Nepal’s foreign employment sector felt the first hit of Covid-19 in late February when migration to South Korea was stopped.
Later, the Qatari government’s temporary ban on arrivals from 14 countries, including Nepal, came as the first major jolt to the labour migration sector, affecting plans of thousands of Nepali workers.
Soon, more labour destination countries enforced similar coronavirus containment measures with rising cases of Covid-19, leading Nepal to completely halt issuing labour permits for an indefinite period on March 13. This was the first such blanket ban imposed by the government in the country’s over two decades of labour migration history.
According to Sujit Kumar Shrestha, general secretary at Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies, the umbrella organisation of recruiting agencies, the government decision will benefit workers who have already received their visas for countries such as Romania, Poland, Maldives, Cyprus, and Seychelles.
“We are hopeful that Nepali workers will also be able to go to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as employers there have shown interest in hiring workers,” said Shrestha. “Workers who had been issued their permits before the government halted issuing the document can leave the country. But it depends on the validity of their visa and job contract.”
Shrestha said if the government plans to resume labour migration then it should also start issuing pre-approvals to recruitment agencies.
The government has already resumed issuing re-entry permits, allowing migrant workers who had been in Nepal during their job breaks to return to work. Following the decision, over 5,600 migrant workers have received re-entry permits for various countries and are expected to return to work with the resumption of regular commercial flights from Tuesday.