While the Kuwaiti amnesty move has been welcomed, some human rights activists say Kuwait is using the pandemic as an excuse to get rid of undocumented workers. They say sooner or later, other Gulf countries will also start pressuring Nepal to take back its workers. In fact, the UAE has asked some South Asian countries to take back workers who want to return.
This week there were large crowds at the Nepal Embassy in Kuwait City as undocumented workers lined up in scorching heat to apply for travel documents. “We try to manage the crowd and ask them to maintain distance, but there were just too many workers,” said the NRNA volunteer. “They are just so desperate, we can just pray that there will not be any transmission.” There have so far been 3,440 confirmed coronavirus cases in Kuwait, of which 51 are Nepali.
Nepalis in Kuwait are helping each other in times of need. One Nepali female worker said a dai drove her 35km to the embassy and dropped her back home, and that was just one of the many trips he made to help fellow-Nepalis. The embassy has also sprung into action after initial hiccups over getting the necessary information to Nepali workers.
But the onus is now on the Nepal government to permit the Kuwaiti charter flights to Kathmandu, and to arrange for proper quarantine space and transport back to the districts for the several thousand Nepalis who may soon be returning from Kuwait and other Gulf countries.
The flights for the returnees will also need special permission because Nepal’s lockdown and a ban on all international and domestic flights has been extended till 15 May.