The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted millions of migrant workers in destination countries, many of whom
have experienced job loss or non-payment of wages, been forced by employers to take unpaid leave or reduced
wages, been confined in poor living conditions, and with little or no engagement in the work options before them.
Many migrant workers also struggle with the dilemma of exercising their right to return in these circumstances, while
others remain stranded in cities without access to services or support, or in border areas, living in precarious
conditions posing as quarantine facilities.
Countries of destination and origin have begun repatriation procedures of these workers, without giving thought to
their predicament and presenting the returns as inevitable. Millions will be repatriated to situations of debt bondage
as they will be forced to pay off recruitment fees and costs, despite returning empty handed.
Under the above conditions, repatriation poses additional challenges, as, without proper controls, employers
might take advantage of mass repatriation programs to terminate and return workers who have not been paid their
due compensation, wages and benefits. Without ensuring that companies and employers are doing their due diligence
to protect and fulfill the human rights and labour rights of repatriated migrant workers, states across the migration
corridor become complicit in overseeing procedures where millions of workers will be returning without their earned
wages or workplace grievances being heard, nor seeing justice in their situation.
This is a gross violation of labour rights on a large scale. Wage theft will account for millions of dollars to the detriment
of workers and the benefit of businesses and employers who will be exempted from any accountability, even if states
and banks extend a helpline to reestablish themselves and adjust to the new normal.
The repatriation procedures have been undertaken hastily by countries of both origin and destination, without any
proper redress mechanism, since courts and other labour dispute mechanisms have also been closed during the
period of the lockdown. Therefore, these violations will pile up and either not be addressed or overburden the existing
dispute resolution mechanisms.

In this regard, Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), Lawyers Beyond Borders (LBB) Network, Cross Regional Centre for Migrants
and Refugees (CCRM), South Asia Trade Union Council (SARTUC), Solidarity Center (SC), and ASEAN Services Employees
Trade Union Council (ASETUC) call upon countries of origin and destination to urgently put in place a transitional justice
mechanism with the following objectives:
1. The transitional justice mechanism will address grievances, claims and labour disputes of repatriated workers who
have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. That the mechanism needs to be expedited, accessible,
affordable, and efficient.
2. It should be a priority to guarantee that all repatriated workers with legitimate claims are able to access justice
and some kind of compensation.
3. While it must be of the utmost importance to ensure that cases are resolved as soon as possible, without delay,
especially in cases involving labour disputes, safeguards must be put in place to ensure that migrants are able to
pursue their cases post return. Access to legal advice and support, facilitating power of attorney procedures, and
easing requirements for in-person testimony and court appearance or appearance in front of a tribunal/grievance
mechanism are paramount.
4. States should require employers and businesses to keep all employment records, including payroll, employee lists,
and hours worked and allow workers to take copies of their records with them.

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