Undocumented migrant workers to get government support for returning homeAll the government repatriation schemes had excluded undocumented migrant workers, leaving them to languish in Covid-19 hit labour destination countries.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
After months of confusion, the government has finally stepped forward to take care of undocumented Nepali workers in various labour destination countries who have been left out of the Covid-19 pandemic repatriation scheme.
According to Labour, Employment and Social Security Minister Rameshwar Ray Yadav, the government has decided to make arrangments to help undocumented workers return home from the Covid-19 hit countries like Malaysia and the Persian Gulf states.
“The government will ensure that all Nepali migrant workers, be it documented or undocumented, get the support to return home. The Nepal government will bear the repatriation expenses of the workers,” Yadav told the Post. “Not a single Nepali worker should languish in labour destination countries.”
So far the government’s repatriation programme has not prioritised undocumented workers, even though they are the ones who need help the most.
Even when the government came up with a plan to provide financial support to those migrant workers who cannot afford to buy air tickets, the undocumented workers were left out.
The decision to support the workers had come following a Supreme Court order directing the government to use the money from the Foreign Welfare Fund to cover the flight expenses of those workers who had migrated for overseas jobs by seeking labour permits and still had valid permits.
The migrant workers who had reached various labour destination countries through unrecognised channels and those who did not have valid job permits and visas were therefore unqualified to avail the welfare fund to return home.
As per the latest decision of the government, the repatriation cost of undocumented Nepali migrant workers would be covered by the Covid-19 Prevention, Control and Treatment Fund, said Minister Yadav.
While the government has announced to help out the undocumented workers languishing in various labour destination countries, there is no data available on the number of such workers.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will collect such data on undocumented workers from Nepali missions abroad,” said Minister Yadav. “We have also discussed the prospect of increasing the number of daily flights so that more migrant workers can return home.”
On Friday, the Nepal Embassy in Oman rescued and sent back three undocumented women workers who had been in the Gulf state for several years. According to the embassy, a woman migrant worker from Jhapa, who had been out of family contact for the last seven years, was among the three workers who were sent home.
The two other women workers had reached Oman through illegal routes with the help of human traffickers.
According to Bharatmani Pandey, spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour, there has been regular discussions on how the repatriation of undocumented migrant workers could be facilitated.
As per the Labour Ministry statistics, 43,887 migrant workers from Qatar, the United Arab of Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Malaysia and South Korea have returned home until September 3. Likewise, a total of 125,960 Nepali workers have registered to return home in this period.
“The Labour ministry with other concerned ministries are coordinating to speed up the repatriation process which so far has been affected due to limited flights,” said Pandey. “Once the flight numbers are increased, more workers will start coming home.”
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of September 22, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and infected more than 31,405,983 people with 967,505 deaths and 22,990,260 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,557,573 with 88,943 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 306,304 confirmed cases with 6,420 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 65,276 cases with 427 deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.