Nepal | July 15, 2020

300 stranded Nepalis arrive home from Kuwait

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Altogether 300 Nepalis stranded in Kuwait arrived home today through two chartered flights of Jazeera Airways managed by the Kuwaiti government.

As per the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, the first aircraft arrived in Kathmandu at 11:30am carrying 149 passengers, while the second aircraft of the Jazeera Airways landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport at around 5:00pm.

Nepali migrant workers previously stranded in Kuwait due to restrictions imposed on travelling, as a preventive measure against the spread of coronavirus infection, are seen arriving at the Tribhuvan International Airport, in Kathmandu, on June 11, 2020. Photo: Naresh Shrestha/THT

A majority of these returnees were female workers (maids) and their respective employers and the Kuwaiti government had borne their airfare.

Earlier last week, as many as 194 stranded Nepalis from the United Arab Emirates and Myanmar had arrived home on flights operated by the governments of the respective countries.

Though the government has decided to evacuate stranded Nepalis abroad on priority basis, it is yet to start evacuating such Nepalis through its own flights. Till date, Myanmar, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have repatriated Nepalis through chartered flights.

As per the repatriation schedule unveiled by the government, a total of 67 flights will be operated in the first phase to evacuate Nepalis stranded in different countries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has finalised the list of 24,148 stranded Nepalis in foreign lands who need to be brought home immediately.

Of the total repatriation flights, Nepal Airlines Corporation will be conducting 24 flights, while Himalaya Airlines will be operating 19 flights and other foreign airlines will conduct 24 flights. As per the schedule, NAC’s wide-body aircraft will evacuate passengers from Dhaka, Bangladesh, on June 14 while NAC’s aircraft will bring passengers from the Maldives and Malaysia on June 15. The first phase of repatriation flights will be conducted across different countries till June 25.

Meanwhile, the government’s decision to make returnee stranded Nepalis pay the airfare and the high airfare being charged from such Nepalis has come under criticism from different quarters. Though the government had stated that rescue is being carried targeting those who are facing extreme problems in foreign lands, the plan to make them bear the airfare (which is relatively higher compared to normal airfare) on their own has come under scrutiny.

The government has fixed airfare at up to Rs 92,000 for the chartered flight to different Gulf nations while airfare from such countries to Nepal is Rs 25,000 on an average.

“Chartered flights are often costly as it includes two-way flight cost.

However, the airfare fixed by the government still seems too costly,” said an expert on aviation sector seeking anonymity.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said that the intention was not to give financial burden on stranded Nepalis.

“Governments of respective nations have been bearing the airfare of those who got amnesty while those who have lost their job or completed their contract have been sponsored by their respective companies,” he informed, adding, “While those under priority list who are facing financial problems for tickets will be taken care of, others who want to return home at their own cost will have to pay the airfare.”

A version of this article appears in e-paper on June 12, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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