Legally, Nepalis and other foreign workers in war zones like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya fall between the cracks. The US and Britain get to lessen exposure to their own troops by hiring nationals from other countries through private contractors for much less money and fewer facilities. There is also no legal obligation during emergencies like this.
The Nepali guards at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul in 2016, for example, were hired by Sabre International, a private contractor. Families of the security guards sued the Canadian government in 2018, and finally reached a settlement verdict on compensation at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto last year.
Five of the Nepali soldiers wounded in the attack and 13 widows of those killed were awarded a total of $20.4 million in compensation. The guards were killed when a lone suicide bomber blew up the unarmoured bus taking them to the Canadian embassy for their duty.
After the attack Sabre International terminated its contract with the Canadian embassy, and shut down operations. Representing the Nepali plaintiffs, Canadian lawyer Joe Fiorante had told CBC: “These men died in the service of our country and have basically been cast aside…They were abandoned by our government and we thought that was dishonourable and frankly unacceptable.”
The American and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, has now left Nepalis and other nationals working for them in a similar predicament. Although a Taliban offensive was expected, what has shocked many is the speed at which the US-trained, equipped, and funded Afghan security forces have either surrendered or been defeated.
There are no accurate figures for the number of foreign contract workers still in Afghanistan, but many had been leaving, and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction put the number at 7,000. It is not clear how many are still there.
However, besides registered Nepalis there are also said to be many other undocumented workers of which neither the government in Nepal nor the embassy in New Delhi have exact figures. Many have been cheated by their recruiters, and are stranded there.
“Everyone has been so focused on the U.S. troops, and also the Afghans, interpreters and others who could face revenge killings by a resurgent Taliban,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch to Los Angeles Times. “About the stranded foreign workers, the Biden administration can say, well, their companies and their governments should have moved heaven and earth to get them home.”
Meanwhile, Globalnews.ca reported that Canada had not approved the evacuation of 100 Nepali guards from its embassy in Kabul, even after its other staff were flown out.