Rescue stranded migrant workers, says NHRC

Kathmandu, May 12

The National Human Rights Commission has expressed serious concern about hundreds of Nepalis, mostly migrant workers, stranded at the international border with India for the past six weeks.

A press release issued by the rights body today said that some citizens were entering Nepal through unauthorised entry points, while others were left to fend for themselves on the Indian side of the border on the suspicion that they were infected with COVID-19.

“After Nepali security forces barred the citizens from entering the country, they have been using alternative routes to reach home without any health safety measures against the virus. The influx of citizens through unauthorised entry points has increased the chances of disease transmission to their families, relatives, neighbours and others who come in contact with them,” the NHRC warned.

The rights body urged the government to rescue its citizens stranded along the Nepal-India border immediately and put them in quarantine or isolation after necessary health check-up as per the guidelines of the World Health Organisation.

Nepalis in desperate circumstances, used to work in India and were trying to return home. After the government imposed nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19, they have been left in a lurch on the Indian side of the border.

The NHRC also called on the government to fulfil its responsibility towards citizens amid the lockdown, which most of the countries have put in place.

“We appeal to the government to create an environment to allow them to return home after their health check-up in accordance with the prescribed standards on humanitarian grounds, as the Nepalis were compelled to leave India due to problems of employment, food and shelter in a foreign land,” the release states.

“Citizens of every nation expect more support from the government in difficult situations. It is a matter of serious concern that many citizens are not allowed to cross the Indian border for their safe return,” read the release.

The government had closed its borders and stopped international flights on March 22. According to the NHRC, though it will be a bit difficult to live normal life and exercise all rights at the time of crisis and panic, the government should be serious about the basic human rights guaranteed by Article 52 of the constitution and Article 12 (2) and (4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nepal is a party.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 13, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.