Kathmandu, March 9
In a move to curb the spread of coronavirus that has been spreading globally, Qatar, which is a major destination for Nepali migrants and a vital source of remittance, has temporarily suspended arrivals from 14 countries, including Nepal.
Issuing a travel notice, the Qatari government has suspended entry of people from Nepal, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria and Thailand.
At present, there are over 400,000 Nepali migrant workers employed in various sectors in Qatar. However, with the spread of the coronavirus, the Qatari government has temporarily suspended work visas of up to 40,000 Nepali migrants, who were all set to fly to Qatar, until further notice.
“We had received visas for about 40,000 workers but now we will have to wait for the next decision of the government in Doha,” said Bishnu Prasad Gaire, president of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies.
According to Gaire, it is likely that visas could be suspended for a considerable period of time, as the virus has been spreading far and wide.
Gaire said as per rules of the Qatari government, if manpower companies were unable to send workers within three months of issuance of the visa, then the workers would be put on a blacklist and not allowed to enter the country for two years. “We’ll speak to the Qatari government so that this rule is not applied in this situation,” he said.
Kumar Dahal, director general of the Department of Foreign Employment, said, “We’ll hold discussions with authorities concerned before deciding on the possible steps that need to be taken.”
In a related development, Nepali airline companies have also halted service to Qatar.
“We’ll halt our service from tomorrow. One of our aircraft left for Qatar today, but only to bring passengers from the destination,” said Archana Khadka, spokesperson for Nepal Airlines Corporation. “The aircraft left for Qatar empty. We’ll release an official statement by tomorrow.”
Himalaya Airlines has also completely halted its service to Qatar, effective from today after it received the notice from the Qatari government, said Vijay Shrestha, vice-president of the company.
Meanwhile, Qatar Airways has launched a new commercial policy to provide customers with maximum flexibility to suit their travel plans. “Passengers who have booked or will book flights for travel up to June 30, will be offered the flexibility to change their travel plans free of charge by altering the dates of their booking or exchanging their ticket for a travel voucher valid for one year,” the statement reads.
A version of this article appears in print on March 10, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.