Nepali workers rejoin jobs overseas
The plight of thousands of Nepali migrant workers stranded overseas gets a lot of media attention, but there are also many who have been stuck in Nepal and unable to join their jobs abroad for the past six months. After regular flights from Kathmandu restarted on 1 September, many of them are finally able to fly out.
Among them were 147 Nepalis who had been on annual leave from their employment in Bahrain, who could finally fly out from Kathmandu last week. The process had to be closely coordinated to see if the Nepali still had their jobs, requirements for exit and entry processes for PCR reports, as well as quarantine requirements.
“We shared the list of those who had registered to return with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs along with copies of their residence card so they could verify their details as well as the validity of their employers since many companies had closed down after the pandemic,” said Nepal’s Labour Attache in Manama, Damodar Dahal.
Even with PCR negative reports before boarding the Nepalis had to undergo two rounds of tests in Bahrain: one on arrival and again after a week of home quarantine. All 147 passengers were required to download an app that ensured they followed quarantine protocols, and had to test negative again before allowed back to work.
Ekraj Rai, who has lived in Bahrain since 2005, had come to Nepal in February on home leave but had been stuck since. He was full praise for the Nepal Embassy in Manama which facilitated the return of workers like him.
“The impact was sudden and unanticipated, and luckily our employer was patient and we had renewed our visas and labour approvals before coming to Nepal,” Rai said.
Another worker said he paid Rs52,000 for the air fare and additional fees for a hotel in Kathmandu while waiting for the flight, as well as two tests. “It was almost as expensive as leaving Nepal for the first time for work,” said one worker. “But I am glad to be back at my job in Bahrain.”
On 8 September, eight Nepalis who work for Qatar Police flew back to Doha on a nearly empty plane after being unable to fly out for six months.
They need a PCR before boarding, and another two tests on arrival in Doha. Because they worked for the police, the tests and quarantine were free. One of them, Uttam Bhandari who has been working in Qatar for ten years, said: “The facilities in the quarantine centre were very good, and will be back to work in a few days.”
There are other bright spots in the migrant saga. Nepali female workers stranded in Lebanon because of the economic crisis and the Beirut blast finally made it home this week after their return kept getting rescheduled.
Thirty-four Nepalis, mostly female domestic workers, finally returned home on 16 September. Many of them were undocumented, or without a job because employers were themselves in economic distress because of the devaluation of the Lebanese currency, and fear of Covid-19.
“To survive, we had to rely on our friends who had work and the church,” said Roja, who is now back home in Sarlahi. “I am glad to be finally home do not plan to leave Nepal again. I packed 10 years of my life in a 30 kg suitcase.”