The National Human Rights Commission has called upon the Government of Nepal to make timely arrangements for inoculating Nepali labour force against COVID-19 before they depart for destination countries.

Issuing a press statement today, the constitutional rights body suggested that it would be better to offer one-shot vaccine authorised by the destination countries to the prospective Nepali migrant workers to ensure that they are immune to the deadly virus and don't face discrimination abroad. The NHRC has also urged the government to protect the basic human rights of migrant workers by facilitating them to overcome the problems and difficulties they usually face away from home.

Thousands of Nepalis have already left or are preparing to leave home for countries, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, as part of their labour migration amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Nepali migrant workers, who have not been vaccinated against the disease, are required to be quarantined at their own expenses for a specific period of time as prescribed by the authorities of the destination countries compulsorily, in addition to undergoing RT-PCR test. No matter they test negative for COVID-19, the migrant works do not have other options than to stay in quarantine.

It has imposed additional financial burden on the Nepalis," the NHRC said in the statement signed by its Spokesperson Tikaram Pokharel.

Pokharel informed that the rights body had written to COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre and other related bodies, requesting them to make provision of one-shot vaccine to the Nepali labourers before their departure to destination countries.

As per a report recently released by the International Labour Organisation, in addition to economic and impact on health, migrant workers are also subjected to discriminatory behaviour in destination countries.

In several countries, despite commitments from host community governments that there will be parity in health services, many workers have experienced discrimination in access to health care.

With over four million labour permits issued in the last decade and volume of remittance reaching Rs 8.79 billion in fiscal year 2018-2019 accounting for 28 per cent of GDP for that year, labour migration is one of the key features of the Nepali economy. In the last fiscal year alone, the Department of Foreign Employment issued 236,208 labour permits which averages at 650 per day.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 17 2021, of The Himalayan Times.