Nepali emigration conjures up images of migrant workers at construction sites in the Gulf or security guards in Malaysia. Falling between the cracks are the increasing numbers of Nepalis now in Europe.
The volume of Nepalis going to Europe pales in comparison to migrant workers headed to West Asia or Malaysia annually, but their presence has been highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic when many Nepalis fell sick.
Romania, for instance, issued 29,800 work permits to foreign workers in 2019, of these 4,324 were to Nepali workers — the second highest nationality after Vietnam.
Similarly, in Poland, of the 69,000 work permits issued to Asian workers, 9,200 were granted to Nepalis who now make up the highest nationality. In 2019, the 2,273 Nepalis officially residing in Malta made them the fourth largest non-EU nationality on the Mediterranean island.
The Honorary Consul General of Nepal in Romania, Nawa Raj Pokharel, is one of the 500 plus Nepalis who has tested positive after the onset of the pandemic. He spoke to Nepali Times from his hospital bed on Tuesday.
“Workers in restaurants have been vulnerable to the economic fallout, but those working in warehousing, agriculture and construction have continued their work,” he said. “I have helped place workers who lost their jobs because of business shut-down or wanted to change employment with new employers. Unless workers are undocumented, they are eligible for unemployment benefits.”