Hopes of Nepalis stuck abroad dashed

Kathmandu, March 25

The Supreme Court refused to issue interim order sought by advocates Madhav Kumar Basnet and Mina Khadka Basent to allow Nepalis stranded in foreign countries, including India, to return home.

The advocates had filed a writ petition against the government on Monday demanding a roll back in the government’s decision to bar Nepali citizens returning from abroad, including India, to enter the country.

Recently the government has sealed both surface and air entry routes to Nepal to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country. A single bench of Justice Dambar Kumar Shahi issued a show cause notice to the government and also told both parties to present their arguments on April 6 on whether or not an interim order as sought by the petitioners should be issued.

The petitioners argued that the government formally not allowing Nepali citizens to enter their country at the time of crisis violates fundamental and human rights. They are of the view that the government should actually have made arrangements to bring in all Nepalis from abroad and take care of them, including providing treatment if needed. They also argued that Nepal had enough facilities for quarantine as many hotels and schools were being used for the same, and that Nepalis should not be left in foreign land insecure.

The writ has also demanded that many Nepali migrant workers have not been able to stay abroad following the protocol of World Health Organisation, but they cannot come back on their own too.

Therefore, such individuals must be rescued, evacuated and quarantined in Nepal itself.

First, the Supreme Court on March 2 issued an interim order telling the government to halt flights from and to the countries that pose high risk of coronavirus infection, including China, South Korea, Japan, Iran and Bahrain, till the disease was brought under control.

The government then on March 12 completely halted flights to and from selected affected countries including China, Japan, South Korea and Iran.

Then on March 18, the government imposed ban on travellers originating from or getting transit in all European, West Asian and Gulf countries, including Iran, Turkey, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, from March 20 till April 15. The government on March 20 imposed a partial lockdown by completely halting long-distance transportation services, international flights and non-essential services offered by both private and public sectors. Subsequently on March 22, the government sealed all international borders for people’s movement, and went for a nationwide complete lockdown from yesterday morning.