01/09/2020

NGOs call for justice mechanism & protections for repatriated Asian workers during Covid-19 crisis - Business & Human Rights Re…

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NGOs call for justice mechanism & protections for repatriated
Asian workers during Covid-19 crisis
On 1 June 2020, a coalition of NGOs and unions launched an urgent appeal letter calling for an urgent
justice mechanism for workers who have been impacted and repatriated as a result of the Covid-19
pandemic.

The economic fallout from the pandemic will include an estimated 195 million lost jobs, including an
estimated 5 million in the Middle East, many of these held by migrant workers. There are serious
concerns that without proper controls or procedures, repatriated workers may not receive with due
wages, compensation and bene ts, and that millions may be burdened with debt bondage as they
struggle to pay of growing recruitment fees.

In light of these risks, the letter highlights the challenges posed by mass repatriation, including that
employers may take advantage of the situation to terminate and return workers who have not been

paid due compensation, wages and bene ts. They call for states to ensure that companies and
employers are ful lling their human rights obligations, warning that without proper oversight states
may become "complicit" in a situation where workers do not earn their wages, have workplace
grievances heard, nor receive justice.

The letter was launched by Migrant Forum in Asia, Lawyers Beyond Borders Network, Cross Regional
Centre for Migrants and Refugees, South Asia Trade union Council, and Solidarity Center, and
endorsed by a group of international and national unions and labour rights groups, including the
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Millions will suffer if
this crime goes unnoticed. We cannot see this as collateral damage brought by
the pandemic... The pandemic must not stifle our will, our spirit and
commitment for justice. If we are to ‘Build Back Better’, we cannot continue
to turn a blind eye to the issue of wage theft that has been persistent across
migration corridors for years, and will be unprecedented in the case of
repatriated migrant workers in the COVID 19 pandemic.

William Gois, Regional Coordinator of Migrant Forum in Asia
On 10th July the coalition reiterated their call, outlining three proposed areas for reform including:
establishing an International Claims Commission, establishing a Compensation Fund for
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