Embassies ask host countries to grant Nepali workers leave

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu

Apr 29, 2015-

Nepali embassies in the Gulf and Malaysia have requested the governments there to allow Nepali migrant workers to return home in the wake of the devastation caused by the Great Quake.

The embassies have also urged the companies employing Nepali workers to help them contact their families in Nepal and send the workers on a paid leave to be with their families in this time of crisis.

An estimated 3 million Nepalis work in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. A majority of families in the worst-affected areas--primarily in the western, central and eastern development regions--have at least a member working abroad.

Some of the hardest-hit districts, including Lamjung and Gorkha--which also have a deep-rooted tradition of locals there joining the British or Indian army--have long remained dependent on a remittance-driven economy.

The Nepali Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has asked both the Malaysian government and employers to help the workers in any way possible. It has asked the employers to help Nepali nationals get in touch with their families back home and send them back if they want to return. It has also requested that the employers to provide at least a month’s salary in advance if they need to support their families in Nepal.

Nearly a hundred Nepalis in Malaysia have already contacted the embassy to facilitate the process of returning home. Malaysia is the country’s largest work-destination, with an estimated 700,000 Nepali workers.

The Nepali Embassy in Doha has also asked the Qatari government to provide leave for workers whose families are living through extreme crises. Nitesh Sapkota, second secretary of Nepal’s mission in Qatar, said around 15 people have sought the embassy’s help to return home. Sapkota said the mission has requested Qatari officials to help expedite the process for granting the workers leave.

“We have been helping them in every way possible, by calling company management and requesting them to provide at least a short-term leave to allow them to get to Nepal,” said Sapkota. Similarly, dozens of workers have reportedly approached the embassies in other work destinations. It is particularly difficult to return home on urgent leave from the Gulf countries because a sponsor’s consent is mandatory to get passes to leave the country under the notorious Kafala system. Sonam Lama, a Nuwakot resident who works in Saudi Arabia, told the Post that some of his friends are determined to get home.

“One of my friends, Ram Bahadur Tamang, of Maibal Mahi, Nuwakot, has already confirmed his ticket for May 20. I haven’t been able to contact my family but have heard that many houses have been reduced to rubble,” said Lama, who works in Riyadh.

Santosh Sharma, who currently works in Dubai, said the families of many Nepalis working in the Gulf nation had been displaced, while some had lost relatives.

“There are many whose homes have been partially or completely destroyed. They are really worried,” said Sharma. Many employers in countries like Qatar and the UAE have pledged financial assistance to workers to rebuild their houses, according to comments on online portals and social media sites.

Meanwhile, rights groups and trade unionists have been urging the labour-receiving countries to help facilitate the smooth return of hundreds of thousands of Nepalis home.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has sent letters to the governments of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, calling for an emergency suspension of the kafala sponsorship system by the Gulf states, according to which migrant workers are beholden to their employers and sponsors for their legal status in the host country. The system allows the employers to retain the workers’ visas and make their return home troublesome.

In letters to the Gulf states that impose the most severe restrictions on migrant workers, the ITUC has called on them to ensure that exit permits and other restrictions are waived for Nepali workers who want to return home, that payment of salaries continue for workers on bereavement leave and that those who wish to leave their employers be allowed to do so and leave the country with end-of-service benefits.

Published: 30-04-2015 09:31

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