COVID-19 has placed us in uncharted waters – as individuals, organisations, and nations navigate their way through unfamiliar territory, everyone is doing their best within their capacities. For example, the Australian Embassy in Nepal, after successfully repatriating its own and neighbouring New Zealand citizens in April, is organising two more flights of the same nature in May. For their repatriation efforts, they are using Nepal’s state-owned carrier, Nepal Airlines.
Naturally, for Nepalis stranded in Australia, upon hearing their national carrier would be arriving into Australia, their hopes were lifted – may be they could return home in the same aircraft? They, therefore contacted the Nepali Embassy in Canberra, only to have their hopes dashed. As the Nepali Embassy is unable to do the same for its citizens, for many, a major question remains unanswered:
- If the Australian Embassy can organise repatriation efforts, why cannot the Nepali Embassy in Canberra?
The plight of the Australian Embassy in Nepal is not an individual one – diplomatic missions of Nepal across the world are in a helpless situation, especially in the Middle-East. Nepal Government is yet to formally announce provisions towards facilitating arrivals to Nepalis abroad.
In a response, the Nepali Embassy in Canberra issued a Press Statement – which asked citizens to remain put where they are claiming that ‘compromise’ is the norm of COVID-19. They also assured citizens that dialogue with the government of Nepal is underway, and that if anyone is facing crisis pertaining to food security and shelter, they should contact the Embassy.
The Press Release received severe criticism on social media – users commented on the helplessness of the Embassy, and criticised their inability to help citizens during such times of crisis. The comments go on to claim that the Embassy isn’t answering their phones. The Embassy denied any such claims, and said efforts are underway to help its citizens.
However, for several people, the Embassy’s response is not enough. For example, Anil Adhikari, Treasurer of CAN (Cricket Association of Nepal), Bagmati Province, has initiated a hunger strike, demanding that he be sent home. Adhikari, who is also a cricket coach in Nepal, is demanding he be sent home. Like many, he cannot fathom, why should an aircraft, bearing Nepal’s national colors, touch down on Australian soil, and not be able to take its own citizens home?
Adhikari was met with the same response – a request to stay wherever he is until an announcement from the government of Nepal is received. His hunger strike of 8 hours a day continues.