BWI supports urgent justice mechanism for pandemic-affected migrant workers

To address the plight of millions of migrant workers who have been repatriated and/or are awaiting repatriation as a result of the pandemic-induced unemployment, BWI endorsed the call of a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) and trade unions for an “urgent justice mechanism” to respond to the migrant crisis. An urgent letter was sent to the United Nations (UN) and governments on 1 June which was followed by a second letter on 10 July to express the gravity of the situation.  

The trade unions and civil society groups called for the following: 1) Creation of an International Claims Commission to oversee the just resolution of wage-theft and other outstanding claims from repatriated workers and to provide equitable remedies; 2) Establishment of a Compensation Fund at the global and national levels to accompany the work of the claims commission and act as its executive branch, dispensing appropriate compensation in cases determined as wage theft and 3) Reform of national justice systems of countries of origin and destination to better respond to the migrant workers’ concerns. This includes expedited labour courts, waiving court fees, establishing wage protection systems and worker hotlines, facilitating power of attorney procedures, allowing for remote testimony, and providing legal aid.

BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson expressed full support for the call for a justice mechanism and added protections for migrant workers. 

“BWI is pleased to join hands with other organisations in pushing for a justice mechanism and more protections for migrant workers affected by the pandemic. This complements our reinvigorated efforts to protect the rights of migrants both in the countries of origin and destination. Moving forward to a new normal and building back better cannot be done at the expense of migrant workers. While COVID-19 has presented us with new and unforeseen challenges, we choose to stand up with the workers and assist and empower them,” Yuson said.  

Last June, BWI issued a statement urging labour-sending countries to prepare for a migrant crisis and ready social protection measures as millions of unemployed migrant workers are expected to return home to their countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The ILO estimated that there are 164 million migrant workers worldwide, half of whom are women, comprising 4.7 percent of the global labour force. It said that almost a million have already returned to South Asia and Southeast Asia. They include 500,000 Nepalese who returned from India, more than 250,000 Bangladeshis from the Middle East, 130,000 Indonesians, 100,000 Burmese and 50,000 Filipinos, mostly seafarers. Meanwhile, Ethiopia expects 200,000-500,000