Nepal resuming and adding more flights to labour destination countriesThe decision will bring relief to thousands of Nepali migrant workers stuck at home and abroad, as well as help in the repatriation of bodies of Nepali workers.
The government’s decision to allow more flights to and from major labour destination countries is expected to provide a much-needed respite for thousands of Nepali migrant workers stuck at home and abroad.
Following up on the recommendations of the Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) to gradually ease international travel restrictions, the government has decided to resume flights with six countries—Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Japan, and Turkey.
According to Krishna Hari Pushkar, a spokesperson for the centre, there will be more flights from and to major destination countries where regular flights were operating before the imposition of restrictions.
“Not only those six destinations, but flights will gradually resume to more countries in coming weeks,” Pushkar told the Post. “It’s not that 100 percent flights have been opened immediately, but a limited number of flights for most of the countries will be allowed soon.”
According to him, more flights will be added to Qatar, India, China and Turkey—countries where the government has already allowed a limited number of regular flights—whereas flights will resume to Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Japan and Thailand, among other countries.
With the resumption of international flights, it is expected that Nepali migrant workers will get some relief as they will be able to travel for overseas jobs. Many migrant workers stranded in various countries due to travel restrictions will also be able to return home.
Since the suspension of international flights from May 7, due to the rising coronavirus cases, many Nepali migrants have been languishing in various labour destinations, mainly in the Persian Gulf countries and Malaysia. Migrant workers who had already bought their tickets to return home after the expiry of their work contracts were especially affected by the suspension of flights.
“In destination countries, there are Nepali migrant workers who wanted to return home but could not do so due to the flight suspension. The government decision to resume flights paves the way for their return,” said Din Bandhu Subedi, spokesperson for the Foreign Employment Board, the government agency responsible for the welfare of migrant workers. “There is no exact number on how many workers are stuck abroad. However, there are around 1,500-2,000 Nepalis waiting to return home from each of the popular labour destination countries. These are mostly those workers whose contracts or visas have expired.”
More flights will also help in repatriating the bodies of migrant workers that have piled up in many destination countries.
According to Subedi, around 70 to 80 bodies of Nepali workers are stranded in different destination countries, although some bodies have been repatriated after the resumption of limited flights.
“We have been repatriating bodies regularly. However, more than 40 are still stuck in Malaysia. All the bodies can be brought home in just two trips by a wide-body plane,” said Subedi. “Elsewhere, in Saudi Arabia, some 20-22 dead bodies remain stranded. With more flights, the backlog of bodies will be cleared.”
Increased number of flights will also help in the gradual revival of the labour migration sector, which has been experiencing a downturn since the first wave of the pandemic last year. As international flights got suspended, thousands of Nepali workers, who had already moved ahead with the recruitment process, could not migrate.
Regular scheduled flights will start operating from this week after aviation authorities of Nepal and destination countries complete the necessary arrangements.
“We need to gradually step up economic activities and return to normal life while following health protocols,” said Pushkar. “We also need to maintain global connectivity as living with Covid is the new normal.”