The government has decided to allow Nepali migrant workers, who are in Nepal during their break from work and could not fly back because of travel restrictions, to go back to their jobs in South Korea.
A Cabinet meeting on Sunday decided to let Nepali migrant workers, who could not rejoin their jobs because of the travel restriction and ongoing lockdown, return to their work in South Korea, according to Suman Ghimire, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security.
With the Cabinet decision, those with valid working visas for South Korea can resume their jobs after medical examination.
“Nepali workers, who have working visas of four years and ten months, sometimes return during their tenure or voluntary vacation. Due to the ongoing lockdown, they have been unable to return to their job,” Ghimire told the Post. “The Cabinet has decided to allow them to return if they so wish.”
According to Krishna Prasad Khanal, director with the Employment Permit System (EPS) Section of the Department of Foreign Employment, workers have been expressing their fears of losing their jobs if they do not return within the given time.
“They have to report back to their employer within three months. Some had complained of their visa expiring soon,” said Khanal. “Those workers have said they can go by booking a charter flight as well. Taking a charter flight is going to be obviously more expensive than using a regular flight. We have heard that they are arranging for a chartered flight.”
At that time, South Korea had been the epicentre of Covid-19 outside China where the pandemic started in December. However, the Korean authorities have impressively succeeded in flattening the curve since then and are containing the virus through aggressive testing and contact tracing.
But the impact of Covid-19 on Nepali workers’ departures for South Korea, where over 60,000 Nepalis have reached to work since 2008, has remained visible. Aspiring migrant workers, who were selected for Korean jobs for the year 2020 have not reached, and dates of Korean language tests for new candidates have also remained uncertain due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis that has affected both countries.
According to Khanal, nearly 500 to 600 returnee migrant workers could benefit from the decision. These workers have to visit Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital for medical examination to ascertain that they are in good health to travel and have no symptoms of Covid-19.
The Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), in a statement, said they would be chartering a Nepal Airlines flight to carry Nepali workers back to South Korea. According to the statement, they have completed the necessary paperwork with the Nepal Airlines depositing a guarantee amount of Rs20 million.
The NRNA has said they would be taking back a total of 1,003 Nepali workers who could not travel to South Korea despite completing the procedure and having visas.
“The latest decision is only for those who have been in Nepal during a work break—not for first-time migrants to South Korea,” said Khanal. “The NRNA has not contacted us regarding chartered flights and carrying Nepali workers to South Korea.”