Nepal attracts a reasonable number of tourists every year. Its natural and cultural heritage are indeed the enticers for foreign tourists, and many Europeans are among them.
We had around 6000 European tourists that arrived in Nepal in in March which in general is the beginning of the trekking season, but this time shortly before the nation braced for a complete lockdown amidst threats from the COVID-19 virus.
Many Europeans who were hiking in the mountains or visiting national parks and remote locations found themselves stuck after the government announced the lockdown on 24th March, initially for a week but later extended until 7 April.
The EU Delegation to Nepal has been coordinating with the Member States Embassies and Honorary Consuls in Kathmandu and in Delhi, as well as with Norway, Switzerland and UK to locate the people stranded in various parts of Nepal in order to facilitate their travel to Kathmandu amidst the lockdown. The Nepal Tourism Board Crisis Cell has been actively supporting the coordination work, thereby facilitating evacuation of tourists from different tourist destinations.
We have been reminding all to register with their respective Embassies and Honorary Consulates. Based on the information received from the Embassies and Honorary Consulates, the EU Delegation has been putting together and updating a list of EU citizens willing to be repatriated to Europe. It is after up to the Member States organizing the flights to put together the passenger list giving priority to the elderly, disabled and families. Until now there have been 4 repatriations flights organized by France, Germany and the Netherlands. So until today, 1070 Europeans have been repatriated.
On 4 April, we are looking at three more flights organized by Czech Republic, France and Germany, allowing for around 700 people to leave for Europe.
It is important to note that the repatriation flights have been supported through the Union Civil Protection Mechanism and thus co-financed by the European Union. Under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, the EU contributes to the costs of repatriation flights that carry nationals of more than one Member State, based on a principle of solidarity.
From the early days of the crisis, the EU Delegation has enjoyed good working relations with the Government of Nepal- from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation as well as the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal who all play a vital role in facilitating the work we have been doing. Following the decision to suspend all international and domestic commercial flights, it has still reassured that the landing permits for departing passenger flights, freight carriers, rescue and air ambulance flights as well as other emergency flights will not be affected. The relevant institutions have been forthcoming to facilitate this.
We would like to congratulate The Government of Nepal, NTB and CAAN for the facilitation of flights and internal transport to get our citizens home. We are very grateful for their courtesy and efficiency in helping us in this difficult time of national and global crisis.
Though the numbers of the EU citizens will reduce after these 3 successful flights leave to Europe, the work will continue in consolidating and updating the lists of those still remaining in Nepal. We will continue working together with the MS in the days ahead so that all the citizens wishing to return home, may be able to do so.