Govt still unprepared to bring back Nepalis

Kathmandu, May 22

After the government imposed the nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, Nepal Airlines Corporation has conducted several chartered flights to repatriate stranded foreign nationals from Kathmandu to various destinations.

However, in another demonstration of government apathy all the flights returned empty even though hundreds of Nepalis want to return home.

It is an irony that even though those Nepalis who are stranded in foreign lands are ready to pay for their flight, the national flag carrier is not able to bring them back and has had to return empty.

According to Archana Khadka, spokesperson for NAC, the corporation cannot take any initiative until it receives permission from the government to bring back Nepalis.

“Till date, we have conducted seven chartered flights for passengers and seven cargo flights, but all were conducted under special circumstances,” she said, adding, “In fact, the government has restricted all flight operations till June 14.”

To bring back Nepalis, the government has to take a policy-level decision or give us special permission to conduct chartered flights for them, she added.

“NAC chartered flights were conducted at the initiative of respective embassies. Either the government has to change its policy or Nepali embassies and missions have to take the initiative to evacuate Nepalis,” Khadka added.

Till date, NAC has conducted passenger flights to Australia, India, Japan, Maldives and Bangladesh. On June 8, the national flag carrier will be flying to Canberra, Australia, carrying foreigners from several countries stranded in Nepal.

When asked why Nepalis were not being brought back to the country, a source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, seeking anonymity, said the government was yet to make full preparations to bring back Nepalis into the country. “It’s not only about the benefit for NAC or our people from Australia, Japan and other countries who want to return home,” the source said, adding, “It is also about managing those who return.”

Although the government is making preparations, quarantine facilities, health check-up services and other essential services have not been ramped up yet, the source said.

“The government still lacks facilities to bring back such a large number of people. It is preparing to bring them on need basis. However, no decision has been taken yet,” the source added.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 23, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.