No Takers for Government’s Migrant Repatriation Plan

Chandan Kumar Mandal

Not a single Nepali worker applied to the country’s diplomatic missions abroad seeking repatriation under the government’s Covid-19 evacuation plan in the first week of October, official data shows.

The reason: Most workers who were desperate to return home after losing their jobs have already come home, officials say.

The resumption of regular international flight in September, also meant that workers, who had to wade through bureaucratic hassles to get expensive return tickets on chartered flights, can now come home on their own.

“There are not many Nepali workers left who want to return home as most of them have already come home,” Bharatmani Pandey, spokesperson for the labour ministry, told the Post.

Since the government launched its repatriation scheme in June following outbreaks of Covid-19 in labour destination countries, a total of 103,807 Nepalis, including migrant workers, have returned home from 59 countries under the evacuation plan, as of Monday.

The highest number of Nepalis have returned from the United Arab Emirates (29,823), followed by 16,052 from Saudi Arabia, 16,001 from Qatar, 14,852 from Malaysia and 9,511 from Kuwait.

“When there were no commercial flights, migrant workers would turn to our embassies to secure a place in the chartered flights,” said Pandey. “Now, there are regular flights so workers are not reaching out to these embassies and might be returning on their own.”

A total of 3,133 Nepali workers had applied to return home under the government scheme between September 24 to October 1 while 10,866 migrant workers landed home during the period.

But not a single Nepali migrant worker applied to return home under the evacuation plan between October 1, the day the government lifted its cap on the frequency of international flights, and October 8, even though officials have not announced an end to the scheme.

With limited and expensive chartered flights to return home and loss of jobs and shelter, Nepali migrant workers in the Gulf, Malaysia, South Korea and other countries had to go through quite an ordeal for months before they were allowed to return home.

The labour ministry is the only agency that maintains data on returning migrant workers and those applying to come home under the government repatriation plan.

“The number of new applicants or migrant workers who wish to return home from these [the Gulf, Malaysia and Korea] countries have almost ended,” said Pandey. “Now there are not many workers who are waiting to return home.”

The government, however, hasn’t announced an end to its repatriation programme.


Published on: 15 October 2020 | The Kathmandu Post


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