Appeal 5: Measures for Addressing Wage Theft Affecting Millions of Migrant Workers in the Times of COVID-19 On the 1stof June 2020, a large coalition of civil society organizations and trade unions launched an appeal to governments to establish an “Urgent Justice Mechanism” that addresses the plight of millions of migrant workers whose wages have been unjustly withheld by their employers. Subsequent appeals called on the international community, especially the UN system, and the private sector to respond with urgency to the situation, each within the remit of its specialization, to facilitate access to justice for migrant workers and ensure compensation for the wage theft experienced by them in the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the issue gaining great visibility among policy makers and generating meaningful debates and interest, little tangible progress has been made in practice to effectively diminish the great burden on the migrant workers and the indignity they are suffering. Five months after the initial call, as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe, workers continue to return, nameless and faceless, to their countries of origin without their hard-earned wages and benefits. Now more than ever before, we renew our call on the countries of origin and the countries of destination to honour their commitment to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of migrant workers, taking immediate and practical measures to remedy wage theft and to ensure justice for affected migrant workers. For decades, wage theft has been a perennial issue for migrant workers (regardless of status) who often lack the wherewithal to access the justice mechanism to claim their dues; the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the scale of wage theft against migrant workers in the context of cancelled contracts, high unemployment and forced repatriation. We urge the countries of origin and the countries of destination to make available disaggregated data collected in the course of addressing wage theft in order to fully assess the exacerbation of the crime in the time of COVID-19 and to guide and assist the migrant workers in their efforts to recover their statutory dues.

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