Strong movements should be launched at the national, regional and global levels campaigning for establishment of the transitional justice system to realize migrant workers’ theft wages and protect their entitlements amid global COVID pandemic situation, experts said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a virtual meeting, senior government officials, civil society leaders, trade unionists and rights activists from different countries in Asia emphasized on creating global funds under auspice of the World Bank, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for supporting the repatriation of the distressed migrant workers from the destinations.
During the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of the poor migrant workers have been the worst victims of the wage theft at their destinations, especially in the Gulf countries as they have been forced to return to their homes amid the COVID pandemic, they said.
The virtual panel series-13 on "Transitional Justice: Towards “Building Back Better” was jointly organized by Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), Manila, Philippines, Global Research Forum on Diaspora and Transnationalism (GRFDT), New Delhi, India and Cross Regional Center for Refugees and Migrants (CCRM), Beirut, Lebanon.
MFA regional coordinator William Gois, also a global migration expert, moderated the webinar which was online joined by about 550 distinguished participants.
In his welcome address, William recalled that on 1st of June, a coalition of civil society organizations and trade unions launched an appeal for an “Urgent Justice Mechanism”, to address the plight of millions of migrant workers who have been repatriated or are awaiting repatriation as a result of pandemic-related job loss.
They have appealed to the governments to establish a transitional justice mechanism that would specifically address the huge volume of cases of wage theft and other outstanding claims heightened in the course of the pandemic, ensuring migrant workers ability to access justice and receive their due compensations.
As a panelist, Bangladesh former foreign secretary Md Shahidul Haque said that there were some migrants’ inequalities, injustices and wage thefts taking places amid the COVID pandemic situation.
Over 500,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers have returned home penniless from the destination countries after they were terminated there, he said.
Shahidul Haque said that Bangladesh prime minister has been raising the issues of the migrant workers at the international forums.
He advised the civil society organizations to boldly launch campaigns for establishing transitional justice system for the migrant workers.
Another panelist Neha Misra, Senior Migration Specialist of Solidarity Center in Washington DC, called for ensuring ‘basic workplace rights’ of the migrant workers as per the ILO standards.
She stressed the need for allowing the workers’ ‘freedom of associations’ to help realize their wage theft at the destinations.
Among other noted panelists, Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament, India and Former Senior UN Diplomat, Dr. Dilip Ratha, Lead Economist, Migration and Remittances and Head of KNOMAD, World Bank, Ryszard Cholewinski, Senior Migration Specialist, ILO Regional Office for Arab States, Beirut and Roula Hamati, coordinator, Cross Regional Center for Refugees and Migrants also spoke.