Nepal bans citizens from working in Russia, Ukraine

The government of Nepal has imposed a ban on its citizens traveling to Russia or Ukraine for employment following the death of 10 young Nepali men and the disappearance of dozens more, mostly while serving in the Russian military. Over 200 Nepali soldiers are believed to have joined the Russian army since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, with over 100 of them reported missing. Some Nepali nationals are also believed to be fighting in the Ukrainian army.

The decision to halt work permits for Russia and Ukraine is a temporary measure aimed at minimizing potential risks and losses for Nepali citizens entering these war-torn countries, according to Kabiraj Upreti, a director at the department of foreign employment.

The losses suffered by Nepali nationals have prompted demands from Kathmandu that Nepali fighters not be deployed on either side of the conflict. The government is also seeking the repatriation of the remains of those killed and compensation for their families.

While Nepali soldiers have traditionally served in the British and Indian armies, and as contract workers in various conflicts, an increasing number of young Nepali men have been recruited by people-smugglers to participate in Russia’s war in Ukraine. These individuals are often enticed with promises of fast-track citizenship or higher salaries than they could earn in Nepal. In December, 12 people were arrested in Nepal for trafficking approximately 150-200 men to Russia, charging them $9,000 for entry on tourist visas and then coercing them into enlisting in the Russian military.

The recent decision by the Nepali government to ban travel for employment to Russia and Ukraine aligns with concerns over the exploitation and endangerment of Nepali nationals in the ongoing conflict. Meanwhile, the ban comes on the heels of a decree signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to expedite the path to citizenship for foreigners who enlist in the Russian army, a move aimed at addressing personnel shortages on both sides of the conflict.

As tensions persist, the Nepali government continues to advocate for the return of soldiers’ bodies, compensation for their families, and the release of those taken captive by Ukraine. The ban underscores the government’s commitment to protecting its citizens from the risks associated with participating in the conflict in Russia and Ukraine.

The Nepali government’s decision to ban its citizens from traveling to Russia or Ukraine for employment reflects a heightened awareness of the risks and challenges faced by Nepali nationals participating in the ongoing conflict. The tragic loss of lives, the reported disappearances, and the exploitation of vulnerable individuals by human traffickers have prompted a proactive response to safeguard the well-being of Nepali citizens.

While Nepal has a history of its citizens serving in various international armies and conflicts, the situation in Russia and Ukraine has raised particular concerns. The ban on work permits for these countries is a crucial step in minimizing potential risks and ensuring the safety of Nepali nationals, who might otherwise be lured into dangerous situations.

The government’s call for the repatriation of soldiers’ remains and compensation for their families highlights the humanitarian aspect of this complex issue. Families back in Nepal are grappling with shock and grief, often compounded by the difficulty of comprehending the loss of loved ones in a foreign conflict. The demand for accountability and assistance from both Russia and Ukraine underscores the government’s commitment to protecting the rights and well-being of its citizens.

As the ban comes into effect, Nepal is sending a clear message that it prioritizes the safety of its people over economic considerations. The exploitation of vulnerable individuals by human traffickers, as exemplified by the arrests in December, underscores the need for robust measures to prevent the coerced involvement of Nepali nationals in conflicts abroad.

The geopolitical context, including Russia’s recent decree expediting citizenship for foreigners enlisting in its army, adds complexity to the situation. The ban from the Nepali government aligns with its responsibility to safeguard its citizens, and it may prompt a broader conversation about the ethics and legality of recruiting foreign nationals into conflicts.

The international community will likely be closely watching how Nepal’s decision unfolds and whether it serves as a precedent for other countries grappling with similar challenges. Meanwhile, the focus remains on ensuring the safe return of those missing, providing support to affected families, and addressing the root causes that make vulnerable individuals susceptible to exploitation in conflict zones.

In the face of these challenges, Nepal’s decision underscores the importance of prioritizing human welfare, even in the midst of global conflicts. As the government works to navigate these complex issues, international cooperation and diplomatic efforts will play a crucial role in addressing the broader implications of foreign recruitment and safeguarding the rights of individuals caught in the crossfire of geopolitical conflicts.

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