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Authors:Shovita Adhikari (Bournemouth University)
Pramod Regmi (Bournemouth University)
Nirmal Aryal (Bournemouth University, UK)
Edwin van Teijlingen (Bournemouth University)
Paper short abstract:
Over one million Nepali live in India as labourers. Since the lockdown in India, thousands have been forced to return home. This paper aims to explore the lived experience of migrant returnees during the COVID-19 pandemic and its wider socio-economic impact.
Paper long abstract:
COVID-19 is more serious in countries in the global south, including Nepal. The Government of Nepal has introduced policies to mitigate health and economic risks. Over one million Nepali live in India as labourers in the informal sector. Since the lockdown in India, thousands have returned home. COVID-19 brings intersectional challenges: including economic, loss of livelihoods, health, social exclusion, and discrimination. This paper aims to understand a) risk and vulnerabilities faced by migrant returnees; b) resistances and resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic; and c) official responses addressing wider socio-economic vulnerabilities.
The data are drawn from media sources using content analysis and, interviews with migrants and stakeholders. The three highly circulated Nepali-language daily newspapers and three top online news portals (January-June 2020) have been analysed. In addition, 23 in-depth interviews have been conducted with migrants’ returnees and stakeholders working with the migrants and marginalised population in Nepal.
Our findings highlight rumours and media mis/disinformation; stigma, fear and panic responses in the community, leading to social exclusion, marginalisation and economic vulnerabilities. Ranging from irrational responses from local governments, media portrayal of migrants as COVID carrier especially women and Dalits returnee, and unpaid migrants (or delayed payments) but most migrants still keen to return back to India again when COVID is under control. Whilst coping strategies and institutional support for these vulnerable groups is non-existent which is also true for other Nepali population. This urgently calls for the government to develop interventions to build resilience and mitigate the consequences for future crisis.
COVID-19 and global development challenges: 'unsettling' multidimensional poverty? I