By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU – Nepal has banned its nationals from working in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria after 13 Nepali security guards were killed by a Taliban suicide bomber in the Afghan capital earlier this week, Labour Minister Deepak Bohara said on Friday.
The decision comes after a parliamentary panel ordered Prime Minister K.P. Oli’s government to crack down on traffickers who send thousands of migrants each year to conflict-torn countries where they can often face danger or exploitation.
“Our decision is prompted by the security situation in those countries,” Bohara told Thomson Reuters Foundation. “If our nationals already working in those countries want to return home, the government will make arrangements for that.”
Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries. Political instability since a decade-long civil conflict ended in 2006 has discouraged investment, stunted growth and curtailed job creation — forcing hundreds of thousands of Nepalis to migrate overseas in search of work.
To make matters worse, the Himalayan nation is still recovering from twin quakes in April and May last year which killed more than 8,800 people and left two million homeless.
Most go to the Middle East, India and Malaysia to work as guards, drivers, construction workers or domestic staff — sending home remittances which make up nearly 30 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product.
Many however face a labour abuses such as a lack of freedom of movement, long working hours, unsafe working conditions and withholding of their salaries, say activists.
Bohara said Monday’s attack on a bus carrying Nepali guards working at the Canadian embassy in Kabul had forced the government to withdraw issuing work permits for the four nations in the interests of the safety of its citizens.
Analysts however say the ban will not help and will rather prompt human traffickers to transport more Nepalis migrants through India, with which it shares an open border, and then onward to these countries. Reuters