KATHMANDU, Sept 3: Nepal government appears to be falling short in taking steps to protect the interests of Nepali workers in Saudi Arabia who are grappling with non-payment of wages and mass layoffs.
According to the Saudi chapter of Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), at least 10 percent of Nepalis working in Saudi Arabia have been hit by the economic recession in Saudi Arabia and many of them are desperately seeking government help to rescue them, the association claimed.
However, sharp differences between NRNA and government ministries and concerned departments about the situation in Saudi Arabia threatens to hobble any effort to resolve the issue in favor of Nepali migrant workers, who have long been credited for playing a major role in helping sustain Nepal's economy.
Surprisingly, while the government estimates the number of Nepali migrant workers in Saudi Arabia at 360,000, NRNA Saudi chapter puts the figure at more than 650,000.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) also played down the NRNA's claim regarding the troubles facing the migrant workers stating that it has not received a large number of complaints from migrant workers.
Still, the ministry has already instructed the Embassy of Nepal in Riyadh and the Consulate General of Nepal in Jeddah to extend assistance to the Nepali nationals affected by layoffs, according to Bharat Raj Paudyal, spokesperson at MoFA.
A total of 66 Nepali migrant workers had approached the Embassy of Nepal in Riyadh and the office of the consulate general in Jeddah seeking assistance and their issues have already been settled, according to the ministry.
Strangely though, at a time when thousands of migrant workers have been laid off and are stranded in Saudi Arabia, the number of Nepalis leaving for Saudi Arabia has not declined.
According to the Department of Foreign Employment (DFE), as many as 13,227 people left for Saudi Arabia between July 1 and August 12. The number during the corresponding month last year stood at 13,553.
Saudi Arabia has been one of the major destinations for Nepali migrant workers over the past decade. A total of 766,039 Nepalis left for Saudi Arabia in the last 10 years, according to Department of Foreign Employment data.