Govt ponders reopening Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya for Nepali workers
KATHMANDU, Aug 28: Bowing down to pressure from manpower agencies, the government is preparing to reopen war-torn Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya for Nepalis workers.
A meeting of the Foreign Employment Promotion Board (FEPB) on Monday has decided to explore the possibility of lifting the existing full or partial ban on Nepalis to those countries.
Amid reports of Nepali workers visiting those countries through illegal and dangerous channels and pressure from manpower agencies, the board decided to hold talks with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) for assessing the security situation in those countries.
"In view of a growing number of Nepali job-aspirants visiting those countries illegally via India, we have decided to open those countries for Nepali workers if we find the countries safe," Purna Chandra Bhattarai, director general of the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) told Republica on Monday.
The government had banned Iraq for Nepali workers in 2004 after a local Islamic group Ansar-al Sunna murdered 12 Nepali workers.
Similarly, Afghanistan is open only for security workers to be employed through UN agencies, British and American embassies there.
Last year, Nepal had repatriated around 2,000 workers from Libya during the civil war, which culminated in the overthrow of Libyan leader Colonel Gadhafi. Situation has yet to return to normal in post-Gadhafi Libya.
Bhattarai, who is also the member of the board, also said a team comprising officials of the board, MoFA, the Ministry of Labor and Employment and officials of Nepali embassy in Pakistan, which is also overseeing Afghanistan, will visit the countries after MoFA agrees to the plan to open those countries for Nepali workers.
Recruitment agencies say around 70,000 and 30,000 Nepalis are currently working in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively. However, the number of Nepalis still employed in Libya remains unknown.
Bal Bahadur Tamang, the president of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (MoFA), says the government should open Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan given the increasing number of Nepali workers visiting the countries through illegal channels.
"If the countries are found secure for workers, then the govenrment should open them," said Tamang.
India has already opened Iraq and Libya for Indian migrant workers so Nepali workers have been flying to those countries via India. The government has opened 108 countries for foreign employment.