Nearly 5,000 Nepali migrant workers have reached out to foreign missions in major labour destination countries to return home on state expenses after the government came up with a plan to repatriate stranded citizens using money from the Migrant Workers’ Welfare Fund.
Last month, the government came up with its repatriation guidelines to provide financial support to stranded Nepali workers abroad. As per the directive, workers who have not received air tickets to return home and other expenses from their host country, employer, or recruiting agency shall be entitled to receive financial support from the government.
“Nepali workers have been submitting their application to Nepali embassies to return home as per the provisions in the directive,” said Suman Ghimire, spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security. “The embassies are checking the applications to find out if the applicants meet the criteria or not,” said Ghimire.
Nepali workers who lost their jobs within a year of departure and have to return to Nepal will receive government support equivalent to their ticket fare. Similarly, for those who migrated more than a year ago will receive government support equivalent to 75 percent of their ticket fare. Those who went abroad on re-entry permits will only get 50 percent of their airfare covered.
As of July 30, around 5,000 Nepalis have applied for government support to go home, said Ghimire. “But the government is not worried about the numbers. We will make sure that workers get the required support as per their needs.”
Nepali embassies have also collected the details of 413 Nepali workers in detention centres in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. As per the directive, those Nepalis in detention centres can come home with support from the fund, maintained by the Foreign Employment Board, without having them to go through verification.
But the government hasn’t set a timeline for the first batch of workers coming home on state support to land in the county. Critics argue that the process is likely to take time as applicants have to go through a lengthy verification process before they receive their tickets. Once a worker’s application is received, the Nepal mission concerned informs the recruiting agency to check the applicant’s status and ensure that the applicant has been paid and provided with a return ticket.
If the worker concerned has not received the salary, facilities and air ticket from the employer as per their contract, the Nepali mission concerned will ask the employer to provide them such facilities. Only after ensuring that an applicant has no means of buying the ticket, the applicant’s flight expenses will be borne by the welfare fund.
Din Bandhu Subedi, spokesperson for the Foreign Employment Board, none of the Nepali embassies has submitted details on workers returning to Nepal using the welfare fund as of yet. The board has allocated Rs 750million for repatriating Nepali migrant workers who migrated through legal channels after contributing to the welfare fund.
“The Nepali embassy in Malaysia has informed the board that it would be sending back around 800 Nepali workers,” said Subedi. “We can’t simply send the money without knowing the category of workers returning as there are different slabs for financial support. The money can only be sent to the embassies after verification is completed and the board receives details from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
Meanwhile, employers of nearly 20,000 Nepali workers in various countries, have agreed to pay for their airfare after they were laid off amid the Covid-19 crisis, according to Ghimire.
“Our priority is to get employers to pay for their workers’ flight as employers are responsible for their two-way flights under their contract with the workers,” said Ghimire.