International migration experts on Thursday emphasized the immediate need for gender responsive assessment of the impact of Covid 19 on migrant workers.
Speaking as panelists at the RMMRU hosted e-Symposium on Covid 19 and Migration titled ‘Drawing the Curtain: Women Migrant Workers’, they said that sufficient information was not yet available on the impact of Covid 19 on women migrant workers.
23 million women work in the Gulf countries and this constitutes 39 percent of total migrant work force of the region. A vast majority of them work in the domestic sector. Besides this they also work in the services sector including retail industry and cleaning.
A small number works in professional and highly skilled categories. However, those who work in the domestic are the most vulnerable. The pandemic has led women migrant domestic workers subject to abuse as they work in isolation and many live in the homes of their employers.
It has led to their increased workload resulting in lack of rest. Constant surveillance by the employers and restriction on their movement have adversely affected the women domestic workers, the participants noted.
While describing the situation of domestic workers Alex Au of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) of Singapore informed that more than 90 percent cases of Covid 19 positive in that country are migrant workers. However, there has not been a single case of woman being affected by Covid. It is the men migrants whose vulnerability has been exposed by Covid in a major way.
Roula Hamat of the Cross Regional Center for Refugees and Migrants underscored the need for combatting the barriers that prevent migrant women from accessing justice and seeking remedies. She urged that both countries of origin and destination ensure non-discriminatory policies against women and guarantee that migrant women can enjoy their family rights without discrimination.
Ellene Sana of Center for Migrant Advocacy, Manila informed that 8000 migrant workers have returned with coronavirus. Many workers have lost their wages and added that the employers in destination countries have terminated workers who used to stay on their own. They have immediately become irregular in status and they do not have any money to pay for Covid test and have problems in paying for the rents and ensuring food.
Dr. Jean D’Cunha of UN Women’s Senior Global Advisor, based Cairo called upon states to invest on preserving women migrants jobs, facilitate recovery of unpaid wages/assets left behind, allow women migrants the possibility of contracting other available jobs in destination sites. She also urged to ensure labour law coverage in both countries of origin and destination, including for domestic workers and their effective enforcement in line with ILO and CEDAW standards.
Among ohers Prof. Nasrah Shah of Lahore School of Economics, Dr. Maruja Asis of the Scalabrini Migration Center of the Philippines and Barrister Sara Hossain of BLAST participated in the discussions. The session was moderated by Dr C R Abrar of RMMRU. Participants from 17 countries including those from UK, Canada, Australia, Yemen, Senegal, Morocco, Palestine, Argentina and South Asia took part in the event.