Raj Kumar Moktan (second right) and others leaving the Tribhuvan International Airport with the coffin of Moktan’s father Ram Bahadur Tamang on Wednesday. Tamang had died in Saudi Arabia five years ago but the body could not be repatriated on time due to various legal complications.
KATHMANDU, Feb 16: In what appears to be government apathy toward migrant workers abroad, it has taken more than five years to bring back the body of a migrant worker who died in Saudi Arabia.
Bam Bahadur Tamang of Hildevi Village Development Committee, Ramechhap district had died in jail in Saudi Arabia and his family in Nepal waited for years to receive the body. The body in a coffin finally arrived at Tribhuvan International Airport on Wednesday.
"We had already lost hope of receiving the body," said Raj Kumar Moktan, son of the deceased, while waiting at the airport. "I still cannot believe it until I see and touch the body myself."
Tamang had gone to Saudi Arabia in 2006. He later left the company he was working for, hoping to get a better salary at another company. His passport, according to his family, was withheld by the first company. Finding him without legal documents, the police took him into custody for working illegally.
Tamang spoke to his family a couple of times from jail and had complained of suffering from pneumonia and other diseases.
He died in May 2011 but family members had to wait till July 7 to learn about the death.
Following his death, the family contacted the Foreign Employment Promotion Board, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government offices, but all in vain. "They did nothing for years but always promised to bring the body back," said the dead man's son.
They lost all hope after another migrant worker informed them that the Saudi government disposed of dead bodies if the kin didn't contact the officials within three years of death.
"Based on this information, we conducted the last rites symbolically since there was no further hope. But the Center for Migration and International Relations subsequently helped us pursue the matter further.
Repatriating the body was difficult because Tamang used a different name after leaving the first company. "He introduced himself as Dhan Bahadur after escaping from the first company and also the hospital agents were bargaining with the family for money," said Basanta Ghimire, program officer at CMIR.
Hospital agents were demanding up to 1.2 million rupees to send the body. The family was ready to pay but they were clueless how to send the money and get the body back.
"We explored sponsors to pay his dues at the hospital. And, the Nepali embassy in Saudi Arabia finally helped us bring the body home," said Ghimire.
When the coffin arrived on Wednesday evening, family members wailed in grief. "We request the authorities that what happened to us should not happen to anyone else," said Moktan.