COVID-19: Nepal families wait for bodies of workers who died abroad

Families not getting a chance to hold funerals for their loved ones

By Raman Paudel
Published: Tuesday 21 April 2020
Migrant workers returning from Nepal capital Kathmandu to their village on foot Photo:

The bodies of more than 65 Nepalese migrant workers are stuck in seven countries, with the kin of those who died overseas, waiting for their bodies to arrive, in the wake of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The migrant workers died while working in these countries, with their families not getting a chance to hold their funerals in their own country. Lockdowns were imposed several parts of the world after the disease spread to several regions.

There were 25 bodies stuck in Saudi Arabia, 15 in Malaysia, 11 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), eight in Qatar, six in Kuwait, one in South Korea and one in Seychelles. One woman from Nepal, who was working in the UAE, died from COVID-19. Her body remained in the country.

The body of a Nepal Army officer, Hridesh Bist, was however, carried back from South Sudan by a special chartered plane, on April 18, 2020. Bist was deployed there for a United Nations mission, but had died after a heart attack two weeks ago.

Government officials earlier asked if Bist’s funeral could be conducted in South Sudan, While three family members consented, the rest demanded the return of the body as soon as possible. The government has not made any attempts to bring back more bodies from other countries because of the risk involved in doing so.

The number of Nepal’s citizens dying overseas was increasing, said Rajan Shresth, the director of Foreign Employment Board. “It has become very tough for us now to fly bodies back to the country,” he said.

The government is at a loss to give the families of those who lost their kin a time period for bringing back their bodies or if they will be able to do that at all.

Nepal received two bodies at its international airport every day before the lockdown, according to the country’s immigration records.

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