‘Nepalis living, working in Iraq safe’

Kathmandu, January 8

Amid recent escalation of tensions in Iraq, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today said Nepalis living and working in the country were safe.

According to reports, Iran this morning fired more than a dozen rockets at two Iraqi military bases hosting US troops following the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani by the US in Baghdad last week. The rockets were fired at the Ain al-Asad base in Anbar province and a base in Arbil.

MoFA Spokesperson Bharat Raj Paudyal said there were no reports of casualties involving Nepali nationals so far. “We are constantly in touch with our embassies in the region and they too are in touch with Nepalis there,” he said. “The government is fully committed to the safety of Nepalis living there, and is prepared for evacuation if need be.”

The MoFA has directed Nepali embassies in middle eastern countries to stay alert regarding safety of Nepalis working there amid heightened tension. It has also directed the embassies to remain in contact with Nepalis living and working there and to regularly update the ministry about developments in the region. Nepalis living there have also been told to stay in touch with embassies.

Iraq is a banned destination for Nepali migrants, but Nepalis end up there through illegal channels. There are more than 15,000 Nepalis in Iraq. Most of them are working in the US embassy as security guards and support staff. Others work at US military bases in Iraq and with companies supplying logistics to military bases. Many are also working in other embassies and local business establishments.

However, government officials said they did not have the exact number of Nepalis working for local and foreign establishments in Iraq as they were not officially documented.

Prakash Mani Paudel, deputy chief of mission at the Nepali Embassy in Kuwait that looks after Iraq, said the embassy today talked to Nepalis living in all regions of Iraq, but no complaints were received. “They did not report any panic situation,” he told THT over phone.

According to sources, some Nepalis are returning to Nepal, but that’s part of regular process. A group of 12 Nepalis working for ‘77 Construction Contracting and Trading Co’ left for Nepal yesterday, but that was a pre-planned departure, the source said.

Meanwhile, Nepali Army has directed NA peacekeepers based in UN bases in Kirkuk and Arbil to adopt caution. Issuing a press release, the NA stated that all the Nepali peacekeepers in Iraq were safe. NA also directed Nepali peacekeepers in Lebanon and Sirya to adopt caution and regularly report to the mission headquarters and NA headquarters.