Nepali missions in labour nations 'overburdened'

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Kathmandu (The Kathmandu Post/ANN) - Various overseas Nepali missions have asked the government to increase the number of staffers to tackle the workload created by the approaching expiry of handwritten passports and the rising deportation of illegal workers from some countries. Nepali missions in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Malaysia are facing an acute shortage of manpower.

Nepal's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has allocated only 28 staffers in these five labour destinations holding over 90 per cent of the 2.5 million Nepali migrant workers. The mission in Saudi Arabia, led by Uadaya Raj Pandey, has seven staffers. The UAE mission, led by Ambassador Dhananjaya Jha, has six staffers and the one in Qatar, led by Ambassador Maya Kumari Sharma, has six officials too. The Kuwait mission, under Ambassador Madhuban Poudel, and the Malaysia mission, led by Ambassador Lekh Nath Bhattarai, have only five employees each.

In addition to the officials assigned by the MoFA, these embassies have some labour attaches assigned by the Ministry of Labour and Employment and some local employees. However, ministry officials say these attaches, most of whom lack language skills and experience, have proved utterly ineffective.

MoFA spokesman Arjun Bahadur Thapa acknowledged that the staff shortage has created severe problems especially for the missions in the Gulf and Malaysia. However, he said, the ministry is not in a position to deploy an additional workforce to these missions right away.

The Nepali embassy in Saudi Arabia, manned by seven staffers, is in an urgent need of additional human resource. Considering recent preparations by the Saudi government to intensify the deportation of illegal workers, the work of the Nepali embassy in Riyadh is expected to double in the coming months.

"Since many companies are likely to be shut, there will be a huge increase in the deportation figures. Our existing strength is inadequate to provide documents and legal assistance to the workers," said Ambassador Pandey.

Saudi Arabia, according to the embassy's latest estimate, hosts around 600,000 Nepali workers, 70,000 of whom are believed to be illegal. The oil-rich kingdom has deported about 900,000 workers in the past 18 months. Like the Gulf and Malaysia missions, the Saudi embassy is flooded with applications to replace handwritten passports with machine readable ones. The handwritten documents will be invalid on November 15, 2015, as per the deadline set by the International Civil Aviation Organization to phase out the old passports.

The embassy has to deal with a wide range of issues including visa issuance, attestation, passport issuance and legal assistance in cases of dead and imprisoned workers. MoFA officials said the ministry needs the support of other agencies to address the problems since it cannot create new posts on its own.

"New posts cannot be created overnight as the Ministry of Finance has to give a go-ahead. Moreover, there are financial limitations as the deployment of new officials is too costly," said spokesman Thapa.

Ministry officials said there will be an exercise to increase the local staff as they are more effective and cheaper to employ.

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