KATHMANDU, Oct 16: Hundreds of Nepali migrant workers currently employed in Afghanistan have complained that they are facing problem to return home due to the government´s latest move to restrict workers travelling to various Gulf countries including Afghanistan on ´visit visa´.
Stating that they are facing dilemma over whether to visit Nepal for Dashain festival as the govenrment move could prevent them from returning to their employment after Dashain, a group of 555 Nepali workers serving in various US and NATO bases in Afghanistan have jointly filed an application at the Nepali embassy in Pakistan to help resolve the problem.
The Islamabad-based embassy of Nepal is concurrently accreditated to Afghanistan.
The complaint comes in the wake of a government task force comprising officials from various ministries stepping up their checking at Tribhuvan International Airport and restricting Nepali workers flying to various labor destinations on ´visit visa´, purportedly to discourage unscrupulous manpower agents misusing the ´visit visa´.
A copy of an application received by Republica states that since they reach the US and NATO bases directly from Dubai on chartered flights it is not possible for them to acquire ´work visa´ from Afghan authorities.
All Nepali nationals working at US and NATO bases in Afghanistan travel to Dubai on ´visit visa´ and then get picked up by charter flights of the concerned employers.
In the application, the workers have said, "Many Nepalis especially those planning to come home for Dashain are in anxiety whether to cancel their leave and work on indefinitely or risk losing their jobs as they may be unable to come back on travel visas."
Talking to Republica on the phone from Islamabad, Nepali ambassador to Pakistan Bharat Raj Poudyal said they have received the application. "We had written to the foreign ministry regarding the application. Today, we have been informed that the government has not taken any policy-level decision to restrict visit to Gulf countries on travel visa," he said.
It is estimated that some 20,000 to 30,000 Nepalese are currently working in various US and NATO bases in Afghanistan. The minimum monthly income of these workers is US $ 600 and average income is US$ 1,000 a month.
The petitioners have said employer companies provide Nepali workers with lodging, food, medical treatment and tickets to travel home one to three times a year at the employer´s expense. While adding that the Nepali workers except those working in security companies are safe, they have also demanded the government not to restrict Nepalis from working in Afghanistan.
Director General of Department of Immigration Suresh Adhikari said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had written to the department asking if a ban has been imposed on Nepalis from visiting Gulf countries on travel visa.
"We stepped up checking to discourage unscrupulous manpower agents from sending Nepali workers to various labor destinations on visit visas. We are ready to consider if the workers in Afghanistan furnish us genuine documents as a short-term solution of the problem," he said. "But we will need to make a long-term arrangement if Afghanistan is safe for Nepali workers."