9-15 June 2017 #862

Nepalis in Qatar worried

The Saudi-led blockade of Qatar has fanned fear about the future among Nepali migrant workers in the Gulf region because of a lack of information
Karma Dolma Gurung

Pattabi Raman

The Saudi-led blockade of Qatar has isolated the country and fanned fear about the future among Nepali migrant workers in the Gulf region because of a lack of information.

Ram Hari Neupane, a salesperson at a supermarket in Doha described the city as being normal, but said his compatriots were worried about what would happen.

“Our managers haven’t told us anything yet. All the information we are getting is from social media. This has caused fear as to what will happen if the situation worsens,” he said. “People at my supermarket are stocking up on daily supplies. We get a lot of produce from Saudi Arabia and we are running out of them.”

For those planning trips to Qatar, the ban on flights has had an immediate impact on purchase of cheap air tickets. Even though there has been no direct effect on migrant workers in Doha yet, experts say there could be longterm impact.

“It all depends how the Qatari government responds. With the decline of oil prices, the number of Nepali migrants to the GCC was slowly decreasing but Qatar was the only country constantly accepting migrants as in previous years because of its construction boom,” said Ganesh Gurung, an expert on migrant issues. “But because of this ban, many Nepalis could lose their jobs and affect remittances.”

Immediately after the diplomatic boycott was announced, the Philippine government declared that it would stop sending foreign workers to Qatar until further notice -- citing food shortages as a major problem should the situation worsen.

“After hearing about the decision taken by the Philippine government, we are worried now about what will happen to the Nepali workers there because many of the Nepalis fall under the same category as Filipino migrant workers,” said Som Prasad Lamichane, Secretary General at Pravasi Nepali Coordination Committee, an organisation run by returnee migrant workers in Kathmandu. “We are all just waiting for the government to inform us about what next steps Nepalis in Qatar should take.”

Nepalis flying to Doha on Emirates-based airlines like Etihad, Air Arabia or Fly Dubai have been affected and have to either switch to direct flights on Qatar Airways, Nepal Airlines, or take Oman Air via Muscat.

“Nepali migrant workers now have limited options to fly to Qatar,” said Bimal Dhakal, President of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA). “They will have to buy more expensive tickets.”

Currently, more than 600,000 Nepalis migrant workers are in Qatar. Saudi Arabia now attracts more migrant workers, but it is also directly involved in the current crisis. Another 500,000 Nepalis work in Bahrain, UAE, Oman and Kuwait.

Karma Dolma Gurung

Read also:

Qatar is reforming labour laws, is Nepal?, Om Astha Rai

Working away from home, Pattabi Raman

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