Over 200 Nepalis Rescued and Repatriated From Malaysian Detention Centres

Nepal Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has prioritised the repatriation of Nepalis held in detention centres.

Chandan Kumar Mandal

Scores of Nepali migrant workers languishing in various detention centres in Malaysia have been rescued and repatriated amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The Nepal Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, which has prioritised rescue of Nepalis in Malaysian detention centres, have sent home a total of 227 Nepalis, including one from Indonesia, which is also overseen by the embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Nepalis living in detention centres for various offences are among the priority groups in the government’s repatriation plan.

“Those in detention centres are basically waiting to return home as they have served their jail terms. They are waiting to be deported,” Pratik Karki, the second secretary with Nepal Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, told the Post.
Karki is overseeing the rescue and repatriation of Nepalis detained in Malaysia and Indonesia.

He said after the government rolled out its repatriation plan, the embassy started tracking the Nepali migrant workers held in various detention facilities and contacting their families back home.

For those people whose families cannot afford the returning airfare, Karki said, the embassy will arrange for their flight tickets.

“We ask other welfare groups and friends of the detained workers to pay for their flight. If they are unable to do so, then the embassy will pay for the air tickets. We cannot let them languish in detention centres for long,” Karki told the Post.

Till date, nearly 150 detained Nepali workers have returned home with the air tickets paid for by their friends and families.

As per the statistics provided by Malaysia’ Immigration Department to the Nepal Embassy, there are as many as 121 Nepalis who are still in various detention centres. The number keeps fluctuating over a period of time.

Last February, when as many as 206 Nepalis were in Malaysian jails, a total of 170 Nepalis were in various detention centres.

Most of the Nepali workers who end up in Malaysian detention centres and jails are the ones who violate the country’s immigration rules like overstaying their visas, or those arrested on drug charges.

Malaysia, which hosts over 400,000 Nepali workers, is one of the top labour destination countries for Nepalis. Nepali workers becoming undocumented in Malaysia due to visa overstay offence or running away from their first jobs remains a major concern, Karki, the embassy official said.

As per the Malaysian law, an immigrant is considered illegal or undocumented when they stay in the country even after their visa has expired and/or flee from their original employers and start working elsewhere without valid work permits.

The Nepali mission has been regularly visiting such immigration detention centres, rescuing the workers and repatriating them to Nepal after issuing required documents and air tickets. For those without a passport, the embassy has been facilitating the repatriation by issuing a one-way travel document.

Besides, many undocumented and jailed Nepali workers have also benefited from the Malaysian government’s amnesty programme in order to return home in the past.

Over the years, hundreds of Nepali workers have utilised the general amnesty of the Malaysian government to return home. Earlier this year, nearly 6,000 undocumented Nepalis workers had returned home availing the amnesty.

As Nepali workers are being repatriated from Malaysia during the coronavirus pandemic, Karki said each worker would be screened for Covid-19 and treated in case of infection before they are sent home.

“The PCR tests of the workers are conducted before their repatriation flight,” Karki said. “At least 40 Nepalis are set to fly back to Nepal by next week while we are trying to rescue and repatriate more in the coming weeks.”

Published on: 16 September 2020 | The Kathmandu Post

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