Kathmandu, May 17

The government is likely to bring back Nepalis, including migrant workers and visitors, stranded abroad from next week on priority basis.

A discussion related to this took place in the meeting of the High-Level Coordination Committee for the Prevention and Control of COVID-19 headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Ishwor Pokharel that was held today. However, the committee did not make any decision.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, who was also present in the meeting, said that the government is now preparing to bring back the stranded people. “We will evacuate people on a priority basis,” he informed, adding that priority will be given to those who are living in camps without any work and those whose visas have expired.

“All preparations can be completed in a day or two and the process to bring back Nepalis stuck abroad can begin then,” said Minister Gyawali.

“Countries including the UAE have even started pressurising governments to take back their citizens, hence we have started homework to rescue our people,” he added. “However, everything depends on what decision the prime minister and Cabinet take.”

Apparently, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had earlier on April 26 refused the idea of rescuing Nepalis living abroad.

The government has been compelled to start bringing back Nepalis stranded abroad after they started piling pressure by approaching the embassies and missions, raising the issue in the media and repeatedly sending open letters to the government. Moreover, Supreme Court, both Houses of the Federal Parliament and the parliamentary committees have also directed the government to rescue the stranded Nepalis.

Meanwhile, PM Oli and Minister Gyawali had also made calls to concerned authorities in the Gulf nations to manage the Nepalis.

The latest development has taken place after the Gulf nations and Malaysia announced that they would send back Nepalis whose visas have expired or are without any work.

“The government is obliged to bring back Nepalis who are working in Kuwait, Malaysia and the UAE without a valid visa. Similarly, students who have gone to study in Bangladesh and Cyprus and those who have gone to other countries for work also have to be brought back,” said Gyawali. He informed that after being brought back they will be kept in quarantine for a certain period and then only allowed to go home.

Preparations have reached the final stage including arranging a vehicle to transport the people to the local level quarantine facility once they disembark from the evacuation flight, informed another minister, also a member of the high-level committee who did not want to be named.

Moreover, Gyawali further said they are planning to evacuate nearly 300,000 Nepalis immediately. “Some countries have said they will help us bring back Nepali migrant workers. We will also do our level best,” he said.

The Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, Ministry of Health and Population and Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation have already started preparations to manage those evacuated from abroad. “We will bring them safely, quarantine them and take them to their respective homes,” said Gyawali.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 18, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.