It is time that we do not only celebrate essential workers with applause and rhetoric but also ensure that this celebration translates into action. We need to make sure that all workers including migrant workers have equal rights and working conditions, equal pay for equal work, social protections, equal access to services and to the vaccine, and other protective measures. 2020: The Year of Stolen Wages and Lost Justice For many of the 272 million international migrants, this year has brought increased hardship. While the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe destroying economies, separating families, and spreading pain and suffering, migrant workers have borne the brunt of the pandemic. During the last few months, millions of migrant workers especially in the low skills sector have lost their jobs and were denied their hard earned wages and benefits. Many were forced to take unpaid leave or accept reduced wages. And although millions of workers have now been repatriated to their countries of origin, many remain stranded in countries of destination awaiting repatriation in destitute situations and forced to live without jobs and wages. In the rush to repatriate, very little attention has been paid to the individual claims of migrant workers, who were forced to survive for many months without pay. This continued, large scale systematic denial of justice has been going on for several years. By neglecting to seriously focus on migrants’ right to justice, countries of origin and destination are complicit in allowing human rights violations to continue with impunity. The time has now come to put an end to the injustice and indignity suffered by migrant workers and to put in place justice mechanisms that would address their plight expeditiously. An Opportunity to Relaunch Mobility in Rights and Dignity What has been most unique about this year, is the almost complete and long halt in human mobility. Never before in history has mobility come to a complete pause like it did this year. As human mobility is resumed, we have a unique opportunity to radically reform the recruitment industry, to completely rid it of the exploitation which has plagued the industry for so long. In our pre-pandemic world, recruitment reform was seen as a complex and unattainable goal. The pandemic has however debunked this myth. It has shown that we can indeed pause and build back slower and with more solid foundations. Now is the time to build robust systems that facilitate mobility rather than exploit it, systems that put the rights of migrants front and center, systems in which the migration journey and the development trajectory of each and every migrant count. On the occasion of International Migrants Day and, in this exceptional year where migrant workers have contributed and given up so much, we call on all member states to give back to the migrants and ratify the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. We also call on member states to take concrete measures to recognize the contribution of all migrants, to bridge the access to services gap, to address wage theft, and to reform the recruitment industry.

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