Officials hint at ban on working in Afghanistan

- ROSHAN SEDHAI, Kathmandu

Jun 22, 2016-

In the aftermath of a deadly terrorist attack that claimed lives of 12 Nepalis in Kabul, senior government officials have hinted that there could be a blanket ban on migrant workers from going to Afghanistan. But any decision to this effect will be taken only if a detailed security assessment report necessitates a ban, said the officials. 

Govinda Mani Bhurtel, spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE), said the government would soon form a committee to carry out a detailed study on the incident and reassess the potential security risk facing Nepali migrants. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has directed Nepal’s embassy in Pakistan to investigate into the incident.  

“It still remains unclear whether the terrorists were actually targeting Nepali nationals. If the terrorists were indeed targeting the Nepali nationals, we may have to bar our citizens from going there,” Bhurtel told the Post.  

Officials said the probe panel would also try to find out whether the Western agencies were not doing enough to ensure proper safety for those killed during the attack. 

Policy makers, however, appear divided on whether to impose a complete ban on Nepalis from going to Afghanistan. While some have stressed on the need to impose a blanket ban, others believe such restrictive measures may not work. 

Those who are against imposing a blanket ban argue that such restrictive measures could force workers to take enormous risk to reach there. They could also face exploitation at the hands of smugglers, they say. 

Nepal currently allows its citizens to go to Afghanistan to work if they are taking job offers from selected employers including the United Nations, the Nato and Western missions. 

So far, a total of 8,614 Nepali migrants have acquired work permit from the government to go to Afghanistan, according to the Department of Foreign Employment. 

More than 1,000 people are currently in the process to acquire permit to go to Afghanistan to work. 

Bharat Raj Paudyal, spokesperson for the foreign ministry, said that Nepalis using the informal channel to go to Afghanistan should be a major cause for concern rather than those who are going abroad through the government channel. 

“Migrants using informal channel are exposed to different kinds of risk. There is a need to devise appropriate strategy,” said Paudyal. 

Recruiting agencies and migrants claim that trying to impose restrictive measures will be a futile exercise. 

“Migrants will continue to go there as long as there is job demand, as pay is very good there,” an operator of a recruiting agency told the Post requesting anonymity. “It will be better if the government facilitates the migration process by cross-checking the security background of the employers,” he said. 

Minister for Labour Deepak Bohara on Monday told the Post that his ministry would hold consultation with other stakeholders, including migrants, before taking a decision. 

“It will not be right to hastily impose a ban and lift it again. We should properly analyse the situation and act accordingly as thousands of people are working there,” said Bohara. 

Although exact figures are hard to come by, at least 20,000 Nepalis are said to be working in Afghanistan.

Published: 22-06-2016 09:40

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