Below is an interview conducted by Nepalese journalist Sanjeev Ghimire of Rajdhani Daily with the envoy of Saudi Arabia to Nepal (and Bangladesh)shortly after his meeting with Prime Minister Khanal.
It is shocking to learn that with hundreds of thousands of Nepalese in Saudi Arabia, there isn't even an embassy in place yet. Read the whole text for more details.
According to media reports, Saudi Arabia is planning to open its embassy in Nepal, shortly. When do you expect to open it?
Saudi ambassador: Yes, we are planning to open the embassy. But, we have not finalized the date, yet.
Can you suggest a tentative timeframe?
Saudi ambassador: I cannot make predictions. Nonetheless, we have already decided to open our embassy here.
How many Nepali migrant workers are stationed in Saudi Arabia as per your data?
Saudi ambassador: Currently, there are more than five hundred thousand Nepali migrants working in Saudi Arabia.
Is there any plan in the pipeline to resume direct air flights between Nepal and Saudi Arabia?
Saudi ambassador: Saudi aircrafts used to land in Kathmandu many years back. However, if I am not mistaken, the flights were discontinued to due some technical problems here. This time around, a few Nepali ministers have informed me that the Saudi aircrafts can now land in Nepal. Hence, I'll take up this issue with our government.
How do you evaluate Nepali migrant workers in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi ambassador: The very reason I am here to request the Nepali official to supply more Nepali workers is that we are impressed with their performance. These days, economic activities have surged in the Saudi Arabia, and a lot of construction work is going on.
What types of workers are on high demand in your country?
Saudi ambassador: Since the Nepali workers are sincere and industrious, there is demand for all types of workers. However, we need a lot of skilled manpower besides the labors. We need more of engineers, doctors, nurses, plumbers, electricians, domestic helpers (maids). Hence, we have urged the Nepali officers to supply trained manpower. Such skilled manpower is in our interest and they, too, stand to benefit from good wage we offer.
Do you have any suggestions to ensure safe and systematic migration of Nepali workers to Saudi Arabia?
Saudi ambassador: Besides from trained and skilled manpower, the ordinary workers need to get appropriate pre-departure orientation. For instance, they need to have sound knowledge of the Saudi law before they land in Riyadh. This way, they won't be vulnerable to legal prosecution. I urge all the manning agents to send the workers only after imparting such orientation.
I also hear complaints that the Nepali workers are duped and that they receive paltry wage in Saudi Arabia. I urge the officials from the umbrella bodies of the foreign employment entrepreneurs associations to hold direct talks with the Saudi official and employers to address the issue.
A lot of Nepali migrant workers have had been cheated, exploited and victimized by their Saudi employers. What are the measures being adopted by the Saudi authorities for the welfare of the migrant workers?
Saudi ambassador: If any migrant worker is exploited by their Saudi employers than he or she should directly approach a department under our Labour Ministry to lodge the complaint. In Saudi law, all people, including the Saudi employer and the migrant workers are equal. If we find out that any company is underpaying, not paying or exploiting the workers in any form then we will initiate action against that company. Still, many workers may not be aware about such provisions. That is why I am laying emphasis on pre-departure orientation and proper training.
You are in Nepal for quite some days now. How do you find it?
Saudi ambassador: I have extremely fond of Nepal. I was here two years back. In fact, I had toured the country 20 years ago as a young tourist. When I am in Nepal, I feel at home. The other good thing about the country is its religious and social harmony. I hear that the Hindus, Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths live harmoniously and that they have never fought with each other. This is a great quality. I also pray for Nepal's peace and prosperity.