Week of 6 April 2020
The coronavirus lockdowns are shining the spotlight on the overcrowded and squalid conditions migrant workers live in. The longer-term impacts on migrant workers and their families (increase in illicit trafficking, remittance decreases that impact livelihoods etc.) are starting to be seen
Here are a few of the recently reported stories related to migrant workers’ living conditions:
- Qatar: a large number of the estimated 2 million migrant workers from South Asia and East Africa are under lockdown in Doha’s Industrial Area, shining the spotlight on the cramped conditions the workers live in (8 – 10 per room) and the unsanitary conditions.
- Singapore: 20,000 migrant workers from South Asia working in construction under lockdown in their dormitories are reporting overcrowded rooms (up to 12 people per room according to the BBC) and dirty conditions (cockroaches, overflowing toilets, etc.).
- India: an estimated 300,000 migrant workers in the garment sector are reported to be stuck in factory hostels in the southern state of Tamil Nadu where rooms are shared by up to 12 workers.
Other issues that are being reported include concerns related to:
- the mental health of migrant workers (e.g. anxiety, impact of prolonged separation with family – especially where lockdowns are coupled with internet outages).
- migrant workers not receiving adequate medical treatment and being subject to discrimination in their host countries (e.g. Iranian hospitals are refusing to treat Afghan migrants).
- migrant workers getting stuck in locations, in between their place of work and homes (e.g. Nepal’s national human rights commission reports that hundreds of Nepalis are stranded along the Nepal/India border trying to get home to Nepal).
- the livelihoods of families heavily reliant on remittances from migrant workers (with the developing world receiving $529 billion in remittances in 2018, and the Centre for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) reporting that if “migrant labor abroad is significantly disrupted by the economic shocks [linked to the lockdowns], those sources of income for families across the developing world will be impacted, creating ripple effects throughout their economies”).
- the increase in debt bondage as well as the use of illicit trafficking to continue to circulate amongst countries (with the Centre for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) reporting that as many as 100 million vulnerable individuals globally could be pushed “into shadowy irregular pathways” of migration).