’Covid & socio-economic fallout pose high risks to Asia-Pacific migrants’

The Covid-19 pandemic and its socio-economic fallout pose high risks to migrant workers in the Asia-Pacific, a new report by the United Nations has claimed.

These migrant workers are more likely to be exposed to the virus, and due to lack of access to healthcare and other essential services, they are more likely to be stranded in countries without work or social protection and face rising xenophobia, says the report.

However, as essential workers and remittance providers, the migrant workers are also key to recovering better, according to the Asia-Pacific Migration Report 2020 that was released on the occasion of International Migrants Day on Friday.

Unlike nationals, migrant workers have generally not been included in social security provisions like unemployment insurance or income support. Migrants have also been disproportionately affected by border closures and lockdowns, leaving many vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, it says.

This exclusion of migrants poses major threats to their human rights and well-being. Poverty reduction efforts in the region are likely to be affected too as will the effort to build stronger, more inclusive and resilient communities, says the report.

Migrant remittances to the Asia-Pacific region, which rose from USD 183 billion in 2009 to USD 330 billion in 2019, have declined due to the Covid-19 outbreak, leaving many households of migrants without a major source of income, it states.

The report was prepared by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Regional United Nations Network on Migration for Asia-Pacific ahead of the first ‘Asia-Pacific Regional Review of Implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration’ slated for March 2021.

“Today, the number of international migrants, to, from and within the region, is at an all-time high. Safe, orderly and regular migration can reduce the vulnerability of migrants and societies to the negative impacts of Covid-19 and future pandemics and help build back better, more resilient communities,” said United Nations Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.

“Greater regional and subregional cooperation on migration would contribute to a more effective COVID-19 response and to maximise the benefits of migration for all,” she added.

Nenette Motus, coordinator for the Regional United Nations Network for Migration for Asia and the Pacific, added, “On this International Migrants Day, we thank them for their contributions, and strongly advocate for a more inclusive response to the pandemic which doesn’t leave them behind, particularly now as countries around the world start massive vaccination programmes.”

The report shows that international migration from, to and between Asia-Pacific countries has increased over the past 30 years. The number of migrants in the region has grown from 52 million in 1990 to 65 million in 2019.

Almost 107 million people from Asia and the Pacific lived outside their countries of birth in 2019 – equivalent to 2.2% of the region’s total population, the largest single region of origin of migrants in the world. Most recorded migrants are migrant workers, contributing to sustainable development in countries of origin and destination.

Covid-19 will continue to have an impact on people and communities on the move in the near future. Even as vaccines are approved, the report underlines that the inclusion of migrants in vaccination programmes, including migrants in irregular situations, will be critical.

Source: United News of Bangladesh