Appreciation to migrants for contributions to COVID-19 response despite hardships ─UNDP

*The United Nations agency says the COVID-19 pandemic has had an unexpected impact on migrants, regarding their significant contributions to response to the global health emergency in spite of hardships they face in foreign lands

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Since the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease in several economies across the world, migrant workers are performing crucial roles as essential workers during the pandemic.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in a piece posted on its Web site stated that a year ago when the organisation marked the International Migrants Day, the world seemed in perpetual motion: in 2019, 270 million people migrated internationally and 750 million moved within their own countries.

However, “within a few short months, COVID-19 had radically impacted human mobility as we know it.

“With lockdowns, travel restrictions and increased remote working, human travel – including migration – has reduced significantly,” the agency said.

Migrant Workers in the EU During COVID-19    Photo: OpenDemocracy.Net

The UNDP noted that mere looking at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, migration flows plummeted by 46 percent in the first half of 2020 and 72 percent in the second quarter, reaching historic lows, according to  IOM.

It noted that migrant workers are performing crucial roles as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

The UN agency observed that in spite of the slowdown in human movement during the period, the pandemic has had one unexpected impact on migrants –their important contributions in responding to the global health emergency have come into the spotlight.

The organisation noted that amid the tragedies of lives lost or pushed into poverty, “our spirits have been lifted by symbols of solidarity, such as the collective gratitude we have shown to the tireless commitment and life-saving efforts of health workers around the world.”

Some of the worst-hit countries, including the United States, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Chile and Belgium depend on migrants for healthcare, said the UNDP.

The agency further stated that in the UK, a third of doctors and a fifth of nurses are foreign-born, while in Chile one in five doctors are foreign-trained (OECD).

Other hard-hit countries also depend on migrants in their service, sales, agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors. In the European Union, 13 percent of key workers were foreign born in 2019 (European Commission).

It, however, disclosed that migrants are also among the most vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 in countries around the world.

UNDP explained: “While this serves as an important reminder of the contributions that migrants make to society, we have also seen that migrant communities are among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

“For one, they are much more vulnerable to health risks. Low-skilled labour migrants living in crowded dormitories have been disproportionately affected: by June 2020, over 95 percent of the confirmed cases in Singapore were migrants.”

Likewise, a fresh study, part of a partnership by UNDP and the Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver, as well estimates that over one billion people could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 – up to a quarter of them because of the pandemic’s devastating legacy.

It noted that migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to job losses, and many are already living in poverty.

Looking just at migrant domestic workers alone, nearly 55 million of them risk losing their jobs, housing and incomes –and thus their ability to access healthcare for themselves and their families (ILO).

This, the UNDP stressed, is compounded by the fact that many domestic workers are employed informally.

“With no access to local social services and being unable to return home due to travel restrictions, they risk being trapped in a foreign country without housing or income,” it stated.

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