Hundreds of Nepali workers at various camps in Saudi Arabia have protested against Nepal government for failing to bring them home. Rendered jobless for seven months, Nepali migrant workers chanted slogans against the government demanding adequate flights after their repatriation became uncertain.
They demand five flights a day from Nepal to Saudi Arabia alone for repatriation. The government has approved only 13 flights in total for September.
Some workers, housed at the residence of Riyadh-based Semasco Company who have been waiting for their flights to Nepal for over seven days after losing their jobs, vented their ire against the government and chanted slogans against Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.
“I don’t have a job, and don’t have food to eat here. When we approach the Nepali embassy for help, they ask us to talk to our employer company but the company asks us to talk to the embassy. We’ve been rendered homeless,” Sandeep Gole of Makwanpur.
Saudi Manpower Supply Company (Samsco) alone has placed about a thousand Nepalis in a camp in Riyadh to repatriate them. About 6,000 workers are living in 11 buildings of the company, most of them are Nepalis.
“A many as 11 people are forced to live in a single room and sleep on the floor. As they don’t give us enough food, there is always a fight for food. We have to buy drinking water with our own money. Sometimes we don’t have an option but to drink water from the bathroom for want of money,” said Padma Bahadur Bhujel of Khotang.
MD Iman Sah, from Birgunj, said that some of the workers in the camp, located in the middle of a desert, were suffering from mental problems. ‘We spend our days watching videos on YouTube to forget our sorrows. A friend even committed suicide,” he said.
Workers from Mahara Company, another manpower firm, also chanted slogans against Nepal government. “The Nepali embassy keeps telling us that there’s no flight for us to go home. We don’t’ have money to buy food or for our medical treatment if we fall sick,” said Pemba Rai of Ilam, who works in Mahara.
After the ani-government sloganeering and protests started at the camp, Samsco had sent Nepali workers to the embassy in four buses on Monday. The workers then chanted slogans outside the embassy premises.
Only 8,525 Nepalis have returned home from Saudi Arabia in the first three months of the repatriation process. The Nepalese Embassy in Riyadh has published a list of another 14,000 people waiting to return home. Besides, various companies have submitted a list of 3,000 people who need to come home.
Moreover, an additional 1,000 people have filled out forms at the embassy to return home while the government has allowed only 2,580 people to return home in September.
After the workers protested, Samsco submitted a list to the Nepali embassy saying that 580 people should be sent immediately. It is said that all the expenses of the flight will be borne by the company.
A tripartite meeting between the company, workers, and the embassy on Tuesday agreed to send workers from Samsco on the first flight. The workers have demanded that only Samsco workers be repatriated on three consecutive flights.
In addition, dozens of airlines have been requesting the embassy to arrange flights. The Nepali embassy in Riyadh says that there are not enough flights to Saudi Arabia as per the demand of the company and workers. “We are asking the Foreign Ministry to fly every day, but they don’t give us flight approval,” said Nepali Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mahendra Singh Rajput.