KATHMANDU, April 4: Amnesty International Nepal has urged the government to ensure that basic needs of migrant workers, daily wagers, refugees and people living in poverty are ensured while implementing measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
After the lockdown, Nepali migrant workers abroad, including in Qatar and Malaysia, and in India are now in a dire situation as these countries have also imposed lockdowns and other public health measures spanning several weeks, said the organization. With the resultant slowdown of economic activity and closure of some businesses in the host countries, many of these migrant workers have now either lost their jobs or are on unpaid leave, with inadequate access to basic necessities such as health care, food and accommodation.
The migrant workers, many of whom have faced entrenched patterns of abuse and ill-treatment in both Nepal and destination countries even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, are now facing even more hardships. In Malaysia, workers are reportedly being forced to come to their work despite a lockdown in place. In Qatar, migrant workers reportedly live in overcrowded accommodation and the World Cup Construction workers are reportedly still being made to work in overcrowded construction sites, which increases the risk of their exposure to the virus.
Thousands of Nepali migrant workers returning to Nepal from India after India imposed a three-week-long lockdown on 25 March are left stranded at several border points, as the Nepali authorities have barred them from re-entering their home country.
"In the wake of this pandemic, states have not adequately protected migrant workers, whose contribution to these economies remains grossly forgotten," said Nirajan Thapaliya, director of AI Nepal.
The lockdown in Nepal has also disproportionately affected several groups, including daily wage workers, refugees, and those employed in the informal sector. The government should introduce comprehensive relief packages and economic assistance to ensure they have access to basic services, and their right to an adequate standard of living. It has urged the government to request international cooperation and assistance from the international community to protect the health and livelihoods of people if domestic resources are inadequate.
"Instances of physical assault and unjustified use of force as reported in the media are deeply worrying. We call on the authorities to investigate these allegations and penalize those found to be misusing their power," said Thapaliya.