Hari runs a small business in Malaysia which has been ravaged by the COVID-19 lockdown. He is married to a Malaysian and has a son. “For me, returning to Nepal is not an option since it would disturb my child’s education. We are just riding out the crisis in my in-law’s farm away from the city, waiting for businesses to resume,” he said in a phone interview this week. Malaysia has decided to partially lift its lockdown.
Food and lodging is a priority for those out of work, but do not want to be repatriated. The demand for repatriation is mainly from those who have lost their jobs, so one option could be to redeploy the workers to sectors such as manufacturing of health equipment, cleaning, supermarket staff, warehousing, which are essential services.
In the UAE, for example, over a 1,000 foreign workers in entertainment and cinema were retrained to work in the Carrefour supermarket that was facing a worker shortage. Nepal’s embassies in destination countries need to lobby and coordinate with industry there for redeployment of its nationals.
“Not everyone has the luxury to go home and displaced workers among them could benefit from such redeployment programs,” says Ram, who has been in the UAE for 13 years, saying many workers have to pay back loans. For now, he has registered to return to Nepal, but does not know if it is for good.
Ram has gone back to Nepal twice to start something on his own, and he says a salaried job in UAE was a safer option. He adds: “When I come here, Nepal looks like a better option. When I go to Nepal, the UAE seems like a better option. The grass is always green on the other side.”
Nepalis in Kuwait apply to return home, Upasana Khadka
Cash flow crisis for migrants and families, Upasana Khadka