Nepal-Qatar Relations: Prioritize promoting interests of Nepali migrant workers

Published On: April 25, 2024 07:30 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

The two-day state visit of Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the first by a head of state from Qatar since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1977, marks an important milestone in the bilateral relations between Nepal and Qatar. The visit culminated in the signing of various memoranda and agreements between Nepal and Qatar. The bilateral meeting resulted in eight deals—six at the government level and two involving the private sector. These agreements were signed during the delegation-level meeting led by Qatar Emir Al Thani and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. These agreements mark an important step in strengthening our bilateral relations. While this is a positive development, Nepal and Qatar can work further to deepen our ties, especially in terms of investment in Nepal. Additionally, the visit will be seen as a missed opportunity as the two sides could not reach any agreements for the interests of Nepali migrant workers. As a newspaper, we expect both sides to expedite signing a new labor agreement at the earliest possible date that will help protect the interests of Nepali migrant workers.

The visit of the head of state of Qatar holds particular importance as Qatar hosts approximately 400,000 Nepali migrant workers, mostly in the construction and manual labor. There are concerns regarding the rights and welfare of these workers, and it's regrettable that no agreements were reached in this regard during the visit. Concerns about working in extreme heat, that could reach over 40 C (104 F), inadequate living facilities, and abuse have risen in recent years. The most important thing missing during the visit is the interest and welfare of Nepali workers. Earlier on Sunday, New York-based Human Rights Watch had rightly called on Qatar, Nepal, along with Bangladesh in a statement to prioritize labor protection for migrant workers during the Emir's visit. “It is important ... to go beyond exchanging diplomatic pleasantries over their longstanding labor ties and seize this moment to publicly commit to concrete, enforceable protections that address the serious abuses that migrant workers in Qatar continue to face,” the statement quoted Michael Page, the agency’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, as saying. HRW added that while Qatar-based jobs have allowed migrant workers “to send remittances back home to their families,” many experience abuse, including “wage theft, contract violations, and chronic illness linked to unsafe working conditions.

The Emir's visit also aligns with the upcoming Nepal Investment Summit. The visit is expected to send a positive message to the world as more than 1500 foreign guests are arriving in Nepal later this week to explore business and investment opportunities in Nepal. Nepal and Qatar can further strengthen their bilateral relations with increased Qatari investment in different sectors including agriculture. As the visit also marked the renewal of the MoU between Qatar Chamber and the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), there are grounds for us to believe that Nepal will see increased Qatari investment in the coming year. Let’s hope that both sides will work toward expediting the signing of the revised labor agreement to protect the interests of Nepali migrant workers at the earliest opportunity and bring in more investment to ensure economic growth and employment opportunities in Nepal.

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