Around 4,000 returning home daily after quakes

  • Nepali Migrant Workers
- POST REPORT, Kathmandu

May 27, 2015-

Around 125,000 Nepali migrant workers have returned home from various labour destinations in the Gulf and Malaysia in the aftermath of April 25 earthquake, according to the Department of Immigration (DoI).

Nepali missions in the destination countries and workers say thousands more are in the process to return home on short-term leave to perform rituals of their relatives who died in the quakes and take care of their families.

The DoI data suggests an average of 4,000 people have been entering Nepal through the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) daily following the Great Quake. The number is five times higher than that of normal time. The actual number of returnees could be more, as the data does not include people returning via various Indian airports.

The Foreign Ministry say that Nepali migrants have received “an overwhelming” support from their employers and the host governments in the wake of the crisis in Nepal.

Immediately after the earthquake, the ministry and embassies in the major work destinations had requested the concerned governments and employers to grant to allow grieving Nepali workers on paid leave. The government had also pledged a free air ticket to workers without means and who failed to get help from their companies.

“Many companies have not just granted paid leave but have also extended financial support to their Nepali employees whose families have been affected by the earthquake,” said Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey. Some smaller companies, who were initially reluctant, have also been granting leave upon being requested by the embassies.

Minister Pandey’s remarks come at a time when various international media are criticising the Gulf countries, especially Qatar, for denying leave to workers during crisis.

Various rights groups, including the International Trade Union Confederation, had also called on the government of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE to suspend the Kafala system to ensure easy mobility of Nepali migrant workers during crisis and provide them leave with pay and advance salary. Most of the workers are getting leave without much difficulty, according to the Nepali missions in the Gulf and Malaysia. They say some workers at smaller companies and those staying without legal status are facing problems, however. Thousands of Nepalis are believed to be staying without legal status though the exact number is hard to come by.

Ambika Joshi, second secretary at the Nepali Embassy in Kuwait, said the embassy does not have information on the exact number of the returnees after the quake as migrant workers do not necessarily inform the embassy before leaving. “A few people, including domestic workers, have approached us for help. They were granted leave after the embassy requested the concerned companies and employers,” said Joshi.   

The Nepali Embassy in Qatar said that hardly 50 migrant workers have sought mission’s help for leave from their employers, while the others have been returning on their own. Nitesh Sapkota, second secretary at the embassy in Qatar, said the office has been helping them “in every way possible”.

Senior foreign ministry officials in Kathmandu had twice requested Qatari ambassador to Nepal to facilitate in sending the affected workers on emergency leave with advance salary.  The Nepali embassies in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia are said to have been using similar diplomatic channel to persuade the respective governments to press the local companies to grant leave for Nepali workers. “Many smaller companies have been reluctant to provide leave though it’s not a problem in big companies,” said a Nepali embassy official in Saudi Arabia.

An estimated 3.5 million Nepalis work across the Gulf and in Malaysia, with a majority of them coming from the districts affected by the earthquakes.

Published: 28-05-2015 07:16

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