Several dead bodies of Nepali migrant workers stuck abroadDead bodies have been brought in bulk from Malaysia thrice this year, but arranging flights for ferrying the bodies remains a challenge. Bodies repatriation from Saudi Arabia has been affected by lengthy bureaucracy in the Gulf kingdom.
Lately, dead bodies of Nepali migrant workers have once again started piling up in labour destination countries.
The bodies remain stuck in labour destination countries because of flight issues, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, and other administrative problems in those countries.
According to the Foreign Employment Board, the government body responsible for the welfare of Nepali migrant workers, including repatriation of the dead, at least 19 bodies are still stuck abroad.
According to Din Bandhu Subedi, a spokesperson with the Board, four more bodies in Malaysia are awaiting repatriation. Likewise, there are 13 bodies of Nepali migrant workers in Saudi Arabia and two in Kuwait still waiting to be brought home.
Repatriation of the bodies from Malaysia has been affected mainly due to flight issues.
“The Himalayan Airlines does not have a wide-body plane, making it difficult for bringing back the bodies from Malaysia. Narrow-body aircraft do not have enough space for ferrying coffins,” said Subedi. “Only Nepal Airlines has wide-body planes which can bring many dead bodies in a single trip.”
Last Saturday, the Nepal Airlines ferried home nine dead bodies of Nepali workers from Malaysia, a major labour destination country for Nepali workers.
“Four bodies are languishing in Malaysia as the bodies need clearance from the local authorities for repatriation,” said Subedi.
The process of repatriating Nepali bodies had halted last year after countries around the world sealed their borders and suspended international flights to stem the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The repatriation of bodies, which had stopped since March last year, could resume only after the government started chartered flights to labour destination countries to bring home stranded Nepali workers.
The resumption of regular commercial flights had further eased the bodies’ repatriation process. But the problem had persisted in Malaysia, where at one point mortal remains of 31 Nepalis had remained stuck.
Later, Nepal Airlines had sent its wide-body aircraft for bringing those dead bodies.
“Even the narrow-body aircraft has brought the dead from Malaysia, but it can hardly adjust one coffin,” said Subedi. “The remaining four bodies are in the process of obtaining clearance and compensation. Once that process is completed, the Nepal embassy will issue a no-objection certificate and the bodies will be brought home.”
Every year, hundreds of Nepali migrant workers die in various labour destinations due to various reasons. In the last fiscal year 2019-20, a total of 754 Nepali workers died abroad.
If their employers do not send the dead bodies, the Board takes the responsibility of bringing the bodies. After bringing the bodies to Nepal, they are handed over to the respective families and the board also provides vans for free to ferry the bodies to their respective home addresses.
Board official Subedi is also concerned about the 13 dead bodies in Saudi Arabia and two languishing in Kuwait. In Kuwait, two Nepali workers recently died of Covid-19.
According to Subedi, so far no dead bodies of Nepalis who died abroad from Covid-19 have been brought home.
“The process of bringing the bodies from Malaysia has been delayed due to problems with flights, but in Saudi Arabia’s case, the delay was caused by the administrative issues there,” said Subedi. “It takes a long time in Saudi Arabia to get the clearance from local authorities. We must follow their rules. And in Saudi Arabia’s case we have used even narrow-body aircraft to bring the bodies.”