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International Migrants Day: How the Pandemic Left Workers in Misery?

International Migrants Day: Challenges faced by Migrant workers amid the Pandemic

It is 18th December, which is widely seen as International Migrants Day. Tracing the day’s history, in 1997, Filipino and other Asian migrant organisations started identifying and celebrating 18th December as the International Day of Solidarity with Migrants. This day is chosen for this reason. The UN adopted the International Convention to Protect the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families on December 18 1990.

2020 had been significant trouble for the migrants as, amid the COVID pandemic, they were the most hit group. We had seen pictures of thousands and lakhs of migrant workers rushing back to their hometowns in miserable conditions under the extreme heat of April – May. Essentially talking about India, an Indian Express report informs that 97 lakh migrant labourers were transported back to their hometowns.

International Migrants Day is promoted as

  • ‘December 18”, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status with the UN
  • Radio 1812, an initiative that brings together radio stations to celebrate the day
  • Amnesty International
  • The International Organization for Migration
  • The National Network for Immigrants and Refugee Rights

Migrants in Millions

The rising problem of migrants is a threat to the safety and security of the world as they are forced to live in harsh circumstances with scarce food, clothing and shelter. ‘According to a Global Commission on International Migration report in 2005, the number of international migrants increased from 75 million to about 200 million in the past 30 years and migrants could be found in every part of the world. The report also found that the Migration could accelerate due to the growing developmental, demographic and democratic disparities between different world regions. Moreover, Migration is driven by powerful economic, social and political forces that governments need to acknowledge as a reality.’

Challenges of Ramandeep

Our team spoke to Ramandeep, a mass communication graduate and a freelance journalist who happened to help the migrant workers with the rise of the Pandemic in India. Here are the future challenges that Ramandeep has listed out to identify what the migrant workers faced during the early pandemic days in India and how is a situation like covid Pandemic essentially happens to target the migrants –

Irrespective of the Pandemic, the migrants live in not-too-well-off conditions without necessities. They generally don’t have the cultural and educational support to combat the government policies and face an issue with maintaining the paperwork required to avail the benefits of any policy.

The first problem that got mounted due to covid is that people started losing their jobs. They had rented homes, and with no job, the extreme crunch of money made them helpless as they had bills to pay, stomach to feed but no money to fulfill their needs. Telling about her own experience, Ramandeep said there used to be a plumber bhaiya who you used to call whenever needed. At one instance during the Pandemic, when we called him, he told me that he has got no money to survive here even though he wanted to live there, he would have to go back home.

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Even when the government announced the Shramik Trains, people needed those smartphones to book their tickets. There were enormous queues at the railway reservation centers for people who were asked to wait a month to confirm their tickets. And there was barely any open cafe during the early Covid days.

Migrants in misery

With so much happening around, with the lack of awareness, the government’s carelessness, and mismanaged identities, the migrants started getting depressed. They had no food or money and lost hope of returning to their hometowns.

We wonder if we can accurately identify the number of migrant workers who came back post-lockdown, as the government has had no data on migrant workers. There has been a section of migrant workers who are still not at their workplaces, might have lost jobs and accommodations, and have been miserable.

On this day, various voluntary and non-voluntary organisations organise various activities to spread awareness about the lives and pathos of migrants, how to combat racism, the plight of refugees, problems of human trafficking, etc.

Special documentaries are also screened on this day. Seminars and workshops highlighting the issues of migrants are also held on this day.

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