Returnees face hurdles during repatriation

KATHMANDU, JUNE 23

People who had gone abroad for various purposes and got stuck there due to travel restrictions put in place to contain the coronavirus contagion are now returning home. However, they have faced many obstacles whether it was while booking their repatriation flights tickets, staying in quarantine or while doing their medical check-ups.

A traveller who had gone to Thailand has expressed her dissatisfaction with the government’s repatriation procedure.

She said that she paid Rs 47,300 to return home whereas the normal cost for a flight ticket is Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000.

“And throughout the process I was constantly made to feel that I was one among the privileged. For some people the price might be okay but what about migrant workers who have been stranded abroad for months with little to no savings,” she said seeking anonymity.

“While the government had made efforts, the whole thing could have been much better with better managerial skills. It wasn’t just a question of finance and budget but proper coordination between the government bodies, embassies and authorities placed in the airport and holding centre who could have made things easier, safer and much better,” she added.

Workers returning from labour destinations are happy to be able to return home in times of such crisis. However, they are disappointed with the government’s rescue process whereby they had to pay quite a bit for the airfare and hotel stay. As it is, migrants have to pay more money than the amount specified by the government while going abroad for employment.

Subash Jirel of Dolakha had gone to the United Arab Emirates to work in a food processing company about 15 months ago. Jirel, who stayed in a hotel in Kathmandu after his return, said that he paid Rs 200,000 to the manpower company when he went to the UAE. The government has fixed Rs 10,000 for going to UAE with free visa and free ticket provision. “The government should treat us fairly when the situation is bad in the labour destinations.”

Jirel said that he was forced to return home due to the coronavirus pandemic and he had started repaying his loan within seven months of going to the UAE.

“I had to take a loan when I went to the UAE as I had to pay the manpower company and now when I return I have to pay the government for the rescue. The government should not have charged us for the rescue,” Jirel said.

Similarly, Amar Badu from Darchula said that he is disappointed the government asked them to pay for the repatriation.

He returned from Qatar on his own expense and it had been only nine months that he had gone there for employment.

“When we go abroad the manpower agencies cheat us and now when we have to return due to the coronavirus the government asks us to pay for the rescue,” he lamented.

Badu said that he feels like he has been cheated by both the government and manpower companies.

Those who have returned said that they have faced problems from the time they landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport and were shifted to holding centres. “The medical staffers and security personnel were misbehaving with us,” said Jirel. “We didn’t receive proper treatment, medicine, food and other necessary things in quarantine.”

Published on: 24 June 2020 | The Himalayan Times

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