Nepal | July 11, 2020

Indecision prevails on managing migrants mulling return to Nepal

UMESH POUDEL
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KATHMANDU, MAY 26

The government is yet to take any concrete decision on how to manage quarantine and health facilities, accommodation and visa process for those preparing to return to the country from abroad, including those from major labour destinations.

Government officials have made frequent announcements that all necessary arrangements have been made to evacuate Nepali migrants. However, Nirmala Bista (name changed), who was employed as a housemaid in Kuwait and wanted to return home after her boss ordered her to leave his home due to the fear of coronavirus spreading from migrant workers, contradicted government officials. “I have already filled all the necessary details in the form provided by our embassy for returning home but the authority concerned is not responding on how to proceed further,” she told The Himalayan Times via online call. “I am staying in a common shelter where there are over 100 workers like me and we don’t receive proper health check-up and the accommodation is pathetic,” she added.

Similar is the story of Uttam Baral (name changed). Baral, a factory worker from Qatar, told THT that the situation was getting worse by the day as infection among migrant workers was spreading. “The company where I work asked us to leave and stay in quarantine in our room and we haven’t even been tested again for COVID-19,” he said, adding, “We are also unable to maintain social distance as prescribed by the World Health Organisation.”

Baral added that local police had arrested many Nepali migrants for violating the lockdown and had kept them in prison en masse. “I really doubt if I will be able to return home as I have already been infected and haven’t had a second test for one month,” he said.

“I would like to request the government to pressure the Qatari government to ensure better facilities else hundreds might soon die due to the virus,” he said.

However, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali have frequently claimed that they have spoken to the authorities concerned in the respective countries to better manage Nepali workers.

“But the reality is that Nepali migrants have not received any facility as published in the media,” said Kailash Wagle, a general factory worker from Saudi Arabia.

Suresh Adhikari, under secretary at MoFA, said the ministry and concerned embassies and missions were collecting data to evacuate Nepalis on priority basis.

“However, we have not finalised the exact data yet,” he said, adding, “We plan to evacuate 25,000 to 30,000 Nepalis through various flights in the first phase.”

Suman Ghimire, joint secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, said the government was managing quarantine facilities within Kathmandu valley and also at the local levels. “We are making arrangements for vehicles to transport returnee migrants to their native places where they have to first stay in quarantine,” he said. “They can choose to stay in hotels, resorts or party palaces, however, they will have to pay for the service,” he added.

Narayan Prasad Bidari, secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, said the government was making arrangements for local levels to enable them to provide daily updates of each ward under their jurisdiction regarding the health details of those who have returned from India and other countries.

The local health coordinator will submit details of persons with symptoms of COVID-19 to the chief district officer every day. The CDO will send such details to the National Emergency Operation Centre and the High-Level Coordination Committee for the Prevention and Control of COVID-19.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 27, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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