For the last 10 weeks, the government did not allow its nationals home because it said it needed to prepare for their return. But the first flights last week showed that even with the Nepal Army in charge, the preparations were inadequate with ad hoc decisions on who got to fly back first, no evidence of ramped up PCR tests on arrival, and under-equipped quarantine centres in the districts that could be hotbeds for the disease.
About 25,000 Nepalis are expected to fly back in the next few weeks, and experts say embassies need to communicate more frequently and clearly with workers about their flight status, the government in Kathmandu needs to coordinate better between ministries, and provide help to workers who cannot afford to buy tickets and do not have employer or host country support.
Nepal’s embassies abroad are under severe resource constraints, and have to carry out what is directed by the decision makers in Kathmandu. But there is a sore need for transparency in the selection process with frequent and honest updates. There is now a semblance of order with the timetable and ticket price list published, but there is still a chance of those with clout cutting the queue.
Thursday’s two Jazeera Airways flights full of undocumented Nepali female workers was paid for by the Kuwaiti government. Rita, a Nepali worker who has spent the past one-and-half months at the transit camp set up by the Kuwait government was on the flight because she is pregnant.
“It is bittersweet for me. I can’t wait to go home but my husband is also in Kuwait although not part of the amnesty program as he is documented. He is stuck in his room without work and would have gone home with me had it been possible,” Rita said on the phone. “The baby is still four months away, so I am hopeful that he will be able to join me in Nepal to welcome our daughter.”
Some names have been changed.