Losing Hope in Jeddah by Nitu Ghale

Raju Murmu, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Photo: Raju Murmu

LOSING HOPE IN JEDDAH: Raju Murmu, 31, from Jhapa is crammed in a room in Saudi Arabia with 14 other Nepalis. The 14 pooled their money together and bought an internet package to ensure that their voices are heard but the package is running out and they can’t afford to buy another one again. Of the 14 Murmu is the only one who knows how to use the internet. “We want them to see the condition we’re living in now, where are the concerned authorities? We want them to rescue us,” says Murmu through a video call.

Murmu has been stuck in Jeddah since December. After he lost his job as a cleaner at the airport, he tried to find another one in the city, but he is not allowed to work. When the Nepali government announced that the international commercial flights will resume in August, he asked his family in Nepal to send him Rs. 50,000 and paid Rs 84,000 for a ticket home. In addition to the ticket, Murmu also paid Rs. 7000 for a PCR test. But Nepal reversed its decision and announced that flights will remain suspended until 2 September. Murmu has now found a ticket home for 12 September, but he does not have money for another PCR test. “The PCR tests only last for a week–if I can’t get on that flight, I have to take another test,” he says, “Where will I find the money to get tested again and again?”

He and his group are running out of food and water. The company has given them notice to vacate from the room where they are living. While Murmu is looking forward to going home, he can’t help worrying about his friends he will leave behind. “I am afraid my friends will rot here,” he says.

Photo: Raju Murmu

Pandav Chamar, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Pandav Chamar, 40, is with 14 other Nepalis in Jeddah. He took a PCR test and is waiting for the international flights to Nepal to resume. “We worry that we will be arrested by the police as many are living here on expired visas,” says Chamar. The company has given them seven days’ notice to vacant the room they are staying in. They are running out of cooking gas, food and fresh water. “The government has earned so much money through remittance. How can they neglect us in times like these when we are in such a dire need to be reduced from here?”

Photo: Raju Murmu

Narendra Prasad Chaudhary and Ramnepal Thakur, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Narendra Prasad Chaudhary, 48, from Nawalparasi and Ramnepal Thakur, 53, from Dhanusha shares a room with 12 others in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. They can’t go home because the company they worked for refuses to return their passport. Chaudhary was asked to pay Rs. 1,87,000 and Thakur Rs. 1,25,000 to get back their passport. Chaudhary said, “How can we pay such a huge amount? We have been unemployed for the past six months. Having worked for 12 years, I should have received a bonus. Instead, I have to give them money. And have to pay an additional amount to go home. Why do we have to pay to go home in times like these?”

Photo: Raju Murmu

Narendra Sarwariya and Mahendra Hemran, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Narendra Sarwariya, 30, from Mahottari and Mahendra Hemran, 26, from Morang, share the room with Raju Murmu and 11 others in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. They worked as cleaners and have been unemployed for the last six months. Unlike Murmu, Sarwariya and Hemran’s family cannot send money for them to get home as they are struggling themselves. The company has given them seven days’ notice to vacant the room they are staying in. They are running out of cooking gas. There is no food and fresh water. “If the government does not rescue us, we will die here,” says Sarwariya, “If we are to die, we want to die in Nepal, please rescue us.”

Text and Photos: Nitu Ghale @eastern_keen
Additional Photos: Raju Murmu
Edit: Mallika Aryal @mikaness

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