KATHMANDU, April 15: Public Innovator Dipendra Kandel has urged the Middle Eastern countries to repatriate the Nepali nationals stranded there due to the coronavirus crisis.
Kandel, issuing a press release on Thursday, said a COVID-19 Help Desk has been established to address the problems of Nepalese citizens living outside the country.
“I have received many requests from such people. They are asking for my help so that they return to Nepal safely. Some people even say they would like to die in their own land instead of foreign countries. We have seen their sufferings through different media outlets. These people must be repatriated and helped,” he said.
Millions of Nepali migrant workers living abroad especially Middle-eastern countries like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia have been left stranded as many countries have imposed lockdown to prevent the spread of the global pandemic. Till today, the virus has infected 2,099,500 people and killed 136,032 worldwide.
“The requests for repatriation are predominantly from Middle-east countries. They pour complaints accusing the Nepal government of being irresponsible toward its citizens abroad. Not all of them have been lucky enough to even manage food while their companies are adding to their misery refusing to pay them and threatening them.”
“But the Nepalese embassies residing in their countries do not seem much interested in dealing with this matter, which is very worrying,” he added.
Kandel argued that it is everyone’s right to enter their country, and their government should take the responsibility to bring them home safely.
“But our government is turning a deaf ear to our citizens’ call,” he added.
The international law guarantees everyone the right to voluntary return to the country of their origin, which defines the special relationship of a person with that country.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), article 13 (1) and (2) states that everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State, leave any country, including his/her own, and to return to his/her country.
Thus, it falls under the duty of the government to initiate efforts to take its citizens back the right which no other governments can violate. Only individuals may elect not to exercise it. The international community has a duty to ensure that claims of a right to return are resolved fairly and that returns proceed in a gradual and orderly manner.
Yet, despite this crisis and what international law says against Nepal’s actions, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali said in the media “We have not made any plans to repatriate any students or workers from abroad. It is not right away, and it is not safe for them to travel at the present time.”
“This is an unacceptable statement and is unbefitting of someone whose main priority should be, at this moment of time, to talk to foreign governments and look after the people of Nepal,” Kandel said.
“Thus, at this stage I would like to request and appeal to the head of Government and Foreign Ministry in both ours and Middle Eastern states where our people work, to initiate action which would not only save our people but also reduce the chances of transferring coronavirus to other citizens in these states and ours.”
MESSAGE TO THE MIDDLE EAST
He also requested the government of Middle Eastern countries to ask the Government of Nepal to take back its citizens.
“I would like to request and appeal all Middle Eastern governments to pressure the Nepal Government and refer to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) article 12 (4) which states (4) that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”
“We hope that such pressure will be applied so that we can praise the Middle Eastern governments for having the humanity to help as we hope that such nations assist our nationals and send them to Nepal as soon as possible.”
“As such, to speed up the process, I would also like the nation’s Foreign Ministries in the Middle East to open a form for the people who want to return to Nepal so that they can find the real number of Nepalese who are interested in returning to Nepal. From my experience, I believe the Foreign Ministry will receive high numbers of Nepalese responses and the nations involved can use the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) article 12 (4) and send our citizens to Nepal.
‘TAKE THE MATTER SERIOUSLY’
Kandel criticized the government for ignoring the messages from countries who have asked Nepal to take its citizens back.
“I understand that the foreign ministry of Nepal is ignoring messages from countries to take its citizens back and I myself have noticed very irresponsible behavior from the secretariat of Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali,” he said.
“I have tried to make an appointment to discuss this concerning issue by drafting an email and calling to inform the Minister about the real situation the Nepalese are facing but through their lack of response to my inquiries, I know that they are not serious about their citizens struggling outside Nepal. This is disappointing.”
“I only request that the government take this crisis seriously and help their people. I want to see the steps outlined in full as to what it will do to help our foreign nationals and how it will communicate with other states. This must be done quickly as the COVID-19 crisis worsens.”
“This is a serious matter, the people of Nepal deserve better from the countries they are living and working in right now and more importantly from the Nepalese Government who ignores them. This is unacceptable and our citizens deserve to be treated with respect.”
“Now, I look forward to the responses from the Middle Eastern Governments as well as our own. The Coronavirus Crisis is one that should bring all people together and should show the best in human nature. So far, I am disappointed by our government, as we hope with the help of the Middle East all Nepalese citizens, who desire it, are repatriated and come back home,” he added.