Border closures makes life harsh for migrants

UN Wants New Approach for Displaced People

Nearly three million migrants are stranded and unable to return to their places of work or countries of origin with return journeys prevented by Covid 19 travel bans and border closures.

The restrictive measures put in place by governments after the commencement of covid 19 pandemic have caused migration trends worldwide to shift, according to a joint study by the World Food Programme and the International Organization for Migration. The study focussed on the impacts of the pandemic and related containment measures on migrant workers, remittances and the forcibly displaced.

Apart from this, the study showed that unemployment and loss of income pushed many migrants to return home as they could not support themselves and their families.

Migrant workers

The report said that majority of the over 164 million international migrant workers work in the informal sector. About 75 percent of migrant women and 70 percent of migrant men work in the informal economy. Moreover, these people are the first to get laid off and excluded from social welfare systems.

Moreover, the study said that these migrant workers also live in precarious and overcrowded conditions. This increased the risk of contracting and spreading the virus.

Households receiving remittances

The cross border remittances (sent by migrants to their family members) in 2019 amounted to 717 billion dollars. The study said that 76 percent or 548 billion dollars of the said amount was sent to Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC).

The World Bank said that remittances to LMICs would come down by at least 14 percent by 2021 because of the pandemic. The World Food Programme also estimated that an additional 33 million people are at risk of facing hunger because of remittance loss.

The study also pointed out that 495 million full time jobs were lost in the second quarter of 2020. The migrants used their savings and even compromised their own consumption to send remittances.

Forcibly displaced

Since 2011, the displaced people due to conflict and violence have seen a growth. At the end of 2019, the people forcibly displaced reached a high of 79.5 million people, which was almost double than in 2010. The total number of internally displaced persons reached 50.8 million by 2019. Of this, conflict displaced about 45.7 million followed by disasters and natural hazards that displaced about 5.1 million people.

Food security and protection concerns

The report said that about 80 percent of displaced people because of conflict live in countries with high levels of acute food insecurity and malnutrition. It said that nine of the ten countries with the largest number of IDPs faced a major food crisis in 2019. The displaced population in these countries largely depended on external food assistance for their survival. It said that Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen and, Lebanon had experienced severe food shortage over the past year.

The report also said that migrant workers who rely on daily labour are at a higher risk of food insecurity because of income loss and lack of access to safety nets.

Recommendations

  • Ensure that migrants have access to humanitarian assistance to meet their food and other essential needs.
  • Safeguard assistance to displaced and their host communities
  • Secure access to critical services
  • Recognize positive contributions of migrants and diaspora and promote their inclusion in social protection systems.
  • Facilitate the flow of remittances as an essential financial service for supporting recovery from COVID-19 impact.
  • Promote necessary adjustments to national legal frameworks and ensure access to legal services.
  • Counter xenophobia, stigmatization and discrimination towards people
  • Improve data and analysis to better understand the impacts of COVID-19

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