Govt to rescue Nepalis stranded abroad ‘on priority basis’


Nearly two months after the lockdown was imposed, the government has finally decided to evacuate Nepalis stranded in foreign lands, including migrant workers. The Cabinet meeting held yesterday also decided to immediately establish additional quarantine facilities across the country.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said the priority would be given to those who had gone abroad for treatment, pregnant women and whose relatives had died in Nepal. Second, on the priority list are those who have quit jobs and have already bought return tickets but could not return as flights were cancelled. Third on the list are jobless workers who want to return home.

The government is also preparing to evacuate students from Bangladesh and Cyprus, besides those who are staying without a valid visa in the Gulf Cooperation Council nations and Malaysia. The government is also preparing to bring back Nepalis that Kuwait and UAE want to repatriate immediately.

Earlier, a study team formed by the government had recommended bringing back only 25,000 Nepalis at the most on priority basis in the first phase after making necessary arrangements.

The report prepared by joint secretaries Tapas Adhikari, Dornath Aryal and Harish Chandra Ghimire at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was submitted to the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministries on Sunday after about two weeks of study.

The team had suggested that about 15,000 Nepalis be brought home immediately on priority basis and that another 10,000 could be added later. It added that others could return after international flights resumed.

According to Gyawali, all those brought to Nepal will be tested for coronavirus before boarding the plane. After coming to Nepal, they will be able to go home only after 14 days of mandatory quarantine and undergoing further COV- ID-19 related tests.

Earlier, the government had said it would be safer if Nepalis abroad stayed put wherever they were. But parliamentary committees constantly pressured the government to evacuate the stranded Nepalis, forcing the MoFA to form a team to prepare a blueprint for the rescue of those stranded abroad.

Gyawali said the rescue process would begin within a week after discussions with the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security.

The Cabinet has directed both the MoFA and MoLESS to make arrangements for bringing back stranded Nepalis.

Meanwhile, Kumar Dahal, director general at the Department of Foreign Employment, said they had yet to receive the Cabinet’s fiat on rescue procedure. “After we receive the Cabinet decision, we will start the process of evacuating our people. However, it seems there will be some difficulties as the number of COV- ID-19 patients has been increasing every day in the country,” he said.

“If the number of people who test positive for the virus soars then it will be difficult to manage both domestic coronavirus patients, as well as those who return from abroad. In that case, the rescue process could be shelved for a while,” Dahal told THT.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 20, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.