With the diplomatic rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia-led alliance of United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt intensified, there is uncertainty over the fate of almost half a million Nepalese migrant workers in Qatar.
Nepalese government officials said that they haven’t received any complaints from Nepali workers in Qatar till date about any kind of problems surfacing after the diplomatic crisis.
“Our embassy in Qatar and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) are in close contact with Nepali workers there. In case the diplomatic rift affects Nepali workers, the government will take necessary policy decisions and we (Department of Foreign Employment) are ready to implement it. We have various rescue mechanisms in place to tackle the possible effects of the diplomatic rift in Qatar on Nepali migrant workers. However, we are optimistic that the crisis in Qatar will be resolved soon and it will not affect the migrant workers there,” said Mohan Adhikari spokesperson of Department of Foreign Employment.
However, the numbers of migrant workers leaving for Qatar has drastically reduced in the last few weeks. According to Department, the workers who have already secured permission from Department are wait and see.
Qatar is one of the top preferred labor destinations for Nepalis, with more than 400,000 Nepali workers officially working there. According to the Departemnet, Nepali migrant workers have already started postponing their plans to travel to Qatar following the diplomatic crisis, which is evident in the decline in number of Nepalis taking work permit for Qatar.
The number of Nepali migrants seeking work permit for Qatar has fallen to 200 to 300 per day against an average of 700 to 800 during normal times.
Qatar, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia are the top preferred labour destinations for Nepali migrants. But it’s too early to say that Nepali migrant workers planning to go to Qatar will change their plans abruptly. But, if the crisis in Qatar is not resolved soon, Nepali workers will certainly opt for other Arabian countries over Qatar. If the crisis in Qatar prolongs, it will not only reduce the number of Nepali workers flying to Qatar, but will also affect the economy of Nepal in the long-run.
“Although Nepali ambassador to Qatar had immediately issued a press statement stating that there won’t be any immediate impact of Qatar’s diplomatic crisis on Nepali migrant workers, we’ve started witnessing some of the impacts. Nepali migrant workers who had received cheaper air tickets of budget airlines of United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and others from their recruitment companies in Qatar have been facing difficulties as the airlines of aforesaid Arab nations have suspended flights to Doha.,” argued Ganesh Gurung, Labor expert in an interview with local media.
As Saudi Arabia is connected with Qatar via land, many Nepalis working in Qatar used to supply goods from Saudi to Qatar as truck and lorry drivers, and helpers have been stranded at Saudi border since the diplomatic crisis started. Qatar was importing construction materials and food from Saudi Arabia, and the supply has been affected. This may affect the construction works in Qatar, where a large number of Nepalis are engaged. And there are also chances of food prices shooting through the roof due to the short-supply. This would increase the expenses of migrant workers and their savings will decline,” said Gurung.