Exercise of Due Diligence On Wage Theft in the Midst of a Pandemic The swift and massive shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown measures to contain it have plunged the global economy into a severe contraction. The World Bank forecasts say, the global economy will shrink by 5.2% this year. In its June 2020 Global Economic Prospects, the bank reports that in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, Jordan and Lebanon – where there are around 35 million international migrants – the GDP forecast ratings are taking a dizzying dive between minus 4.5 to minus 3.5 percentage. This translates that, when the economy comes to a halt, it would be the migrant workers who will be badly hit. Laying off migrant workers and forcing them to resign has already become a new normal due to COVID-19 led economic crisis. While, International Labour Organisation forecast that the Middle East is going to witness 5 million job loss, citing ground reports, Migrant Forum in Asia partners confirm that 1000s of migrant workers are being subjected to wage theft and benefit cuts in the GCC countries. And unfortunately, the migrant workers who are hastily repatriated either by companies in chartered flights or by both countries of origin and destinations are being subjected to wage theft. They also suffer the lack of a transitional justice mechanism to find a solution to their grievances. At the time of registration for repatriation of Indians, our partners have found that the Indian embassies are not recording grievances of migrant workers including wage theft, end of service benefits, and secure power of attorney from the returning migrant worker for further pursuance of their case. “We are just recording the only reason for Indians leaving the country. We are neither addressing the workers’ rights violations nor taking any power of attorney” Senior Indian Embassy Official in Kuwait “We are recording only information asked and provided by the Indian in the repatriation form” Senior MEA official in New Delhi The repatriation form, an online Google document form, reviewed by the MFA reveals that, out of the nine checkboxes listed down asking the reason for repatriation to India, there is only one checkbox probing whether the migrant worker is being laid off or not. The option reads, “Migrant worker/labourer who has been laid off.” 1

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