When a 7.8 magnitude earthquake strikes, its tremors are felt across a wide region. But the impact of the quake in Nepal, which has more than 2.2 million citizens working abroad, is resounding around the world.
In the days and months ahead, Nepali migrants – whose remittances make up 28.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product – will be desperate to send money and other assistance to their families at home. The support of employers during this time is crucial.
Being far away from family and home is hard enough as a migrant worker, but when a natural disaster hits, the panic and sense of helplessness can be overwhelming. Nepali migrants will be desperate to learn if their children, parents, friends, and neighbors are safe. Many will want to know if the house that their hard-earned wages helped build is still standing. A breakdown in communication networks can be terrifying as the death toll rises.
My thoughts are with a group of Nepali migrants I met on a patch of grass in Dubai one Friday, their sole day off. It was the only opportunity they had to meet fellow Nepalis and catch up on the news from home. Those Friday gatherings will be even more important now as they organize aid to send home, pray, and try to call their families and friends. Some domestic workers, however, are not allowed a day off by their employers. And some employers restrict domestic workers’ communication with their families, delay paying them their salaries, or fail to pay them at all.
Employers in the Middle East – where vast numbers of Nepali migrants are engaged in construction and domestic work – and elsewhere should recognize the concerns of their Nepali employees at this difficult time. They will need time to locate their families in Nepal. They will need access to phones and the Internet, help to connect to their embassies, and, if they live far from town centers, transportation so they can send money home.
This is no time to look the other way. Nepalis have helped to build the glittering towers of the Gulf countries and care for countless families abroad. Now is the time to show them some appreciation and enable them to help their families rebuild their lives and homes.