Millions of migrant workers to return home due to Covid-19 disruptions: ILO

Geneva, June 24 (efe-epa).- The United Nations labor agency warned on Wednesday that countries in Asia and Africa could witness the return of millions of migrant workers who have lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 crisis.

The International Labour Organization clarified that it was unable to evaluate the situation in the United States and Latin America yet, as the pandemic was still peaking there.

“We know that many millions of migrant workers, who were under lockdown in their countries of work, have lost their jobs and are now expected to return home to countries that are already grappling with weak economies and rising unemployment,” Manuela Tomei, the director of ILO’s Conditions of Work and Equality Department, said in a statement.

The migrants could return both voluntarily and out of compulsion as job prospects have disappeared, and the homecoming might be accelerated once travel restrictions and lockdown measures are lifted completely.

“They (migrant workers) are overrepresented in sectors (…) that are at the highest risk of job losses or in sectors in which physical distancing is difficult to implement. They are invisible to Covid-19 (national) responses (although) many of them provide essential services,” Tomei said in a press briefing later.

In many countries, migrant workers don’t have access to coronavirus tests or treatments and have not been receiving special government aid provided to the most vulnerable sections of the society, while they also face hostility in the host countries as foreigners.

According to ILO estimates, there are around 164 million migrant workers across the world – around half of them women – and they represent 4.7 percent of the global workforce.

Tomei said the home countries should protect the rights of the returning workers and take advantage of their abilities and capacities to contribute to national recoveries.

Discussing the situation of Latin American migrants within the region and in the United States, the ILO official said the restrictions imposed on movement due to the pandemic had prevented an evaluation of the ground situation.

The only sources available were data provided by official entities, such as the government of Colombia, which has informed about the return of 75,000 Venezuelans who were living within its territory, although Tomei said the figure could be much below the actual numbers.

It is also known that around 13,000 Mexicans have been repatriated, although UNICEF has also said that around 1,000 unaccompanied minors have been sent back to Mexico and Central American countries.

The situation is clearer in other parts of the world.

Around 500,000 Nepalese migrants have been projected to return from the Middle East and Malaysia – their main destinations – by the end of the year.

This data includes only those who have lost their jobs and not all Nepalese working abroad.

Meanwhile, India has repatriated around 220,000 of its citizens of the Gulf countries, while 250,000 workers have returned to Bangladesh after losing their employment, and 42,000 are expected to go back to Sri Lanka.

Around 50,000 workers – most of them from the maritime sector – have been repatriated to the Philippines and more are expected to return in the coming months.

“Most of their home countries have very limited scope to reintegrate such large numbers, and often do not have policies and systems in place to ensure effective labor migration governance and smooth reintegration plans,” ILO warned. EFE-EPA


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