Nepalese migrants caught up again in second wave
Ram was a security guard in Malaysia until his contract expired in April. His employer wanted to renew him, but he refused due to frequent payroll deductions, payment irregularities and mistreatment.
A hiring freeze in Malaysia since last year means employers are using various tactics to keep foreign workers despite refusing to do so. But Nepalese whose work visas have expired are stranded as Nepal and Malaysia are in complete lockdown and flights canceled.
âThey dragged the process around hoping that I would eventually decide to stay like other Nepalese colleagues, but I ended up extending the duration of my visa. Now I don’t know when I can fly home and I’m running out of savings, âRam told us over the phone.
New daily cases in Malaysia topped 9,000 this week and so far 2,800 people have died from Covid-19. The government announced a full lockdown from June 1 to 14, while in Nepal the lockdown is in effect until at least June 4.
While the numbers are not as high as last year, it is reminiscent of the experience of hundreds of thousands of Nepalese migrants who were stranded in the Gulf, Malaysia and elsewhere in 2020 awaiting emergency repatriation flights.
âThe pressure is much lower compared to the first wave, but many are still facing difficulties,â says Deepak Dhakal, labor adviser at the Nepalese Embassy in Malaysia, explaining that this is particularly painful for people with personal emergencies with deceased family members. of Covid-19 at home. âWe have asked for at least one flight per week to provide some respite for those who need it,â Dhakal adds.
The situation is similar in other countries, including Saudi Arabia, where Nepalese workers who already had an exit permit are stranded without employer support – even though the number of people in need of assistance does not. is not as high as last year.
“The volume of daily calls regarding flights or support has increased from hundreds to 15-20 this time around,” Labor attachÃ© Prem Upadhaya told the Nepalese consulate in Jeddah. âThe Nepalese are also more careful in decision-making and are wary of the current situation in Nepal. Many choose to stay and work, but for those willing to return, a weekly flight would have helped. ”
The embassies also want flights to transport the bodies of Nepalese workers who died in Nepal. There are 33 bodies in Malaysia and seven in Saudi Arabia waiting to be returned by air.
Many workers are also stranded in Nepal, either because of Nepal’s flight ban or because Nepalese have not been allowed to travel to Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates and South Korea due to the second wave. Some 25,000 to 30,000 Nepalese who have completed their papers cannot fly, and an unknown number vacationing in Nepal cannot join overseas employment.
âThe government’s decision to allow flights from June 1 to Qatar, Turkey and China in addition to uninterrupted flights to Delhi will provide some respite for stranded migrants,â says Sujit Shrestha of NAFEA (Nepalese Association foreign employment agencies). There are said to be more than 117,000 vacancies pending for new jobs for Nepalese, mostly from Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Aside from the dÃ©jÃ vu of the first wave where Nepalese abroad needed repatriation assistance, this year many are pooling their resources to help Nepal with oxygen cylinders, medical supplies and donations. cash.
âWe are mobilizing the support of every country in the Asia-Pacific region to establish an oxygen plant in every province,â says Hari Bhattarai of the Nepalese Non-Resident Association (NRNA) Malaysia. “We know that Nepal’s needs go beyond the oxygen shortage, so we are also working with the Embassy to send test kits and PPE and hope that a Nepalese government charter flight will be sent to Malaysia. in mid-June. ”
In Doha, the Qatar Nepalese Business Association with the Embassy of Nepal formed a Covid-19 crisis relief and support group that has already raised more than 10 million rupees to buy 14 ventilators, 50 concentrators oxygen and 3000 pulse oximeters.
All of this support is in addition to the remittances that workers overseas send home, which keeps the economy afloat. In the last nine months of this fiscal year, total remittances to Nepal defied expectations and rose to 730 billion rupees, an increase of 16.5% from the same period last year.