Speakers at a webinar said origin countries have to fight together to ensure the rights of migrants in the new era of the pandemic, experts, policymakers and rights activists said in a virtual webinar on Tuesday.
The Virtual Panel Series 13 on "Transitional Justice: Towards 'Building Back Better'" was jointly organised by Manila-based Migrant Forum in Asia, Global Research Forum on Diaspora and Transnationalism (GRFDT), New Delhi, and Cross-Regional Centre for Refugees and Migrants (CCRM), Beirut.
Thousands of migrant workers of different countries including Bangladesh have been sent back to the origin countries during the Covid-19 outbreak. Experts fear several lakh migrants might return home in the coming months after losing jobs. Especially, the workers in the Middle East are being badly affected because of the pandemic.
Former foreign secretary of Bangladesh Shahidul Haque said, "The wage discrimination against migrant workers have been running before the Covid-19 pandemic but the pandemic has exposed the issue. Around five lakhs of Bangladeshis have returned empty-handed. Many of them could not bring their benefits or compensation."
"Migration is an issue of geopolitics and power game between the origin and destination countries. We cannot build an inclusive society without establishing the rights of migrants," he added.
"The origin countries often struggle for the rights of their workers. Bangladesh is also negotiating rights issues but we have to fight together to ensure the human rights of migrants," he added.
Shashi Tharoor, an Indian parliament member, said, "The migrant workers do not know their rights. We need to fight for them."
He suggested the formation of compensation commission for the migrant workers and also an emergency relief programme for unpaid migrants amid pandemic.
Roula Hamati, coordinator of Lebanon based Cross Regional Centre for Refugees and Migrants, said, "Migrant workers are last to be hired and first to be fired. Now they are returning from destination countries without wages as the justice system do not work for them."
Ryszard Cholewinski, migration specialist of International Labour Organisation, said, "Justice for all including migrants has to be ensured to attain SDG."
Among others, Dr Dilip Ratha, head of Knomad, World Bank, was speaking in the webinar. The programme was moderated by William Gois, regional coordinator, Migrant Forum Asia.