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Nepal govt mulls lifting Iraq, Afghanistan work ban

Publication Date : 03-01-2013


Given the high number of Nepali migrants working in high-risk countries, the government is planning to provide legal status to thousands of such migrants in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Despite a partial ban on migrating to Afghanistan and a blanket ban on Iraq, an increasing number of workers are leaving for these countries.

The Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) has only been providing work approval to those working in the "green zone," including UN bodies, Nato security camps and various missions in such countries.

Prompted by the government’s ban on travel, workers are forced to migrate illegally to Iraq and Afghanistan, often at the mercy of human smugglers and by paying exorbitant "fees".

A meeting on Monday called by the high-level foreign employment direction committee led by Narayan Kaji Shrestha consented to hold joint discussions to lift the bans.

The meeting was attended by representatives from ministry of foreign affairs (MoFA), ministry of home affairs, ministry of labour and employment (MoLE), Nepali Police and DoFE.

“The foreign ministry has agreed to assess the current security situation of these countries and the status of our workers. The legalisation plan will be based on the recommendation of this assessment,” said MoLE Secretary Somlal Subedi.

He said diplomatic missions will also be asked for recommendation on the current scenario and the pros and cons of providing legal status to migrants.

In a bid to facilitate better record-keeping of illegal migrants, the DoFE had introduced a legalisation scheme a few months back.

However, many workers who had returned to Nepal during the Dashain and Tihar holidays were unable to acquire legal approval as they lacked visas for Afghanistan. Since many workers are directly air-lifted from Dubai to military base camps, they do not require visa, the migrants claimed.

An estimated 40,000 Nepalis are currently employed in Afghanistan, almost equal in number to those working in Iraq. Unlike in Afghanistan, many Nepali women are working in Iraq as domestic help. DoFE records showed that 823  migrant workers have left the country for Afghanistan so far this year.

Despite potential security threats, these war-ravaged countries have been one of the most sought after labour destinations, given the lucrative salaries in security camps, foreign missions and commissions.

Returnee workers from Afghanistan claim their salary ranges from a minimum of 80,000 rupees (US$916.38) to a maximum of 850,000 rupees ($9,736) a month, depending on the nature of work.


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