‘Qatar illegally expelled Nepali migrant workers during COVID-19 panic’

Kathmandu, April 15

Amnesty International said the Qatari government had illegally expelled dozens of Nepali migrant workers by trickery on the pretext of their test for COVID-19.

Amnesty International Nepal Section alleged this on the basis of interview with 20 Nepali men who arrived here on March 12 and 13 after ‘being held for several days at detention centres there even without giving them a chance to collect their belongings and forcefully sending them home without providing their due salaries.’ Most of the men were booked on the pretext that they were going to be tested for COVID-19 and would be returned to their accommodation afterwards, according to a press release issued by the AI today. It further said, “Instead, they were taken to detention centres and held in appalling conditions for several days before being sent to Nepal.” No one had received any explanation why they were treated this way.

“Many were not even given chance to collect their belongings before they were put on planes to Nepal,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s deputy director of global issues, in the press release.

Those people were apprehended by police in different parts of Doha, including the Industrial Area, Barwa City and Labour City, while they were away from their accommodation, carrying out errands or shopping for groceries.

The AI, quoting one Nepali said, “The jail was full of people. We were given one piece of bread each day, which was not enough.

All the people were fed in a group, with food lying on plastic on the floor. Some were not able to snatch the food because of the crowd.”

The A,I further quoting other men without their names and permanent addresses, said they were handcuffed and treated like criminals. “I was taken to my camp to collect belongings, but how could I collect and pack luggage since my hands were chained?” the man said.

Similarly, out of 20 people who were interviewed when they reached the country, only two said they were contacted by the companies they worked for offering to pay their salaries. The press release stated that one man was given cash by his company whilst in detention, but a police officer took it for ‘safekeeping’ and didn’t return it. The other man added that his company asked him to open a bank account to send his wages.

The Qatari government, in response to AI, said that it had uncovered individuals engaged in illegal and illicit activities, while inspecting the Industrial Area as part of the COVID-19 response.

However, 19 of those interviewed by AI said they were not aware of any charge or accusation against them.

Nirajan Thapaliya, director of AI Nepal, talking to THT said, “This is a matter of great concern as no countries should be biased towards foreign nationals living or working in their country at a time of crisis management.”

A version of this article appears in e-paper on April 16, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.