Photo: Óglaigh na hÉireann

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense suffering on the part of one of the most vulnerable sectors in the world, landbased and seabased migrants. Hundreds of thousands of migrants have lost their jobs due to the lockdown in host countries.  This includes domestic workers, service and construction workers, and seafarers who are stranded in their places of work, unable to come home due to the lockdown in the transit areas and in their own countries of origin.

They suffer from hunger, exposure to the elements and to infection by COVID-19, without safe shelter and money to tide them over the crisis.  They are deprived of financial, medical and even housing support in the host countries, and with virtual neglect and abandon by their home governments. They suffer from a climate of exclusion in the host countries, especially the undocumented migrants, who are even deprived of medical attention and welfare assistance.

Their employers and host governments also deny them the needed transport facilities to bring them home to their countries of origin, thus stranding them in limbo exposed to infection and deprivation.

They also suffer discrimination and false accusations of spreading the virus  both at home and abroad, and subjected to draconian multiple levels of quarantine without efficient testing and treatment.

The international community must urgently help this most vulnerable sector in the global pandemic.

The governments of countries of destination, of countries of origin, and of the beneficial owners of ships must ensure the health and safety of migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic.  They must provide food, shelter, medical care and transportation to stranded migrant workers.  The undocumented migrants must also be given relief, aid, and medical attention by the host countries and there  must be a stop or moratorium to the criminalization and persecution of undocumented and over staying migrants. The employers and manning agents must also be made to respect the labor rights of migrants on land and at sea.

Home governments must ensure that their citizens are safely repatriated, given medical attention and spared from the discrimination and prejudice generated by the pandemic.

There must be a change in the labor export policies of home countries that treats migrants as commodities and is economically dependent on foreign remittances from overseas migrant workers.

International organizations like the International Organization on Migration, the Human Rights Council, the International Maritime Organization and the International Labor Organization must ensure that migrants are protected, given timely relief and assistance at this time of great peril to all. The international community must ensure that all abandoned and stranded migrants must be safely repatriated to their countries of origin. All countries must provide safe transit and transport facilities or green lanes in their ports and air terminals to allow the repatriation and transit of migrants, to and from their countries of origin and destination, their human rights respected and their health protected.

Adopted by the IADL Council
28 June 2020