Livelihood of Migrants and Future Challenges

Countries without any accurate data about migrants made the COVID-19 situation even worse.

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The socio-cultural and economic effect of the prevailing global situation of COVID-19 on the migrant population was discussed by a panel of international experts. The webinar was organised by the Global Research Forum on Diaspora and Transnationalism (GRFDT), discussed the Livelihood of Migrants during COVID-19 and the future challenges.

Jeffery Lesser, Professor at Emory University, Atlanta, USA, and author of ‘Immigration, Ethnicity and Identity’, talked about Brazil and its migration issues. Immigration started in Brazil in the 19th century, and has a wide history attached to it. Brazil has faced a lot of deadly diseases like dengue, Zika virus, Tuberculosis, and the National Health System has been very quick and adaptive in fighting the diseases. A lot of residential buildings have been turned into factories in Brazil over the period of years. This has led to greater spread of Corona virus. Most of the upper-class migrants, like research scholars and scientists have left Brazil. Since, there is no strict lockdown; the short-term implications on economic aspects are not visible yet. Prof. Jeffery talked about how Brazil is in a war in itself due to the prevailing political scenario in the country, and they need to find probable solutions for it soon.


Also Read : Despondency Amidst COVID-19: Concerns of Returnee Migrant Workers

Prof. Raj Bardouille, who has taught at various universities across the world, is a Former Senior Officer at the United Nations. She talked about how Hurricane Maria had devastated the lives and livelihood of people three years ago. Post the hurricane, 7000 immigrants, better called non-nationals came to Domica. The main source of economic activity is agriculture (around 20 per cent of the GDP), followed by tourism. The country is still under curfew, due to which the tourism industry is at standstill. The Prime Minister has openly said that the country is facing an economic crisis and the IMF or the World Bank will have to come ahead to help.

Camelia Tigao, National Autonomous University of Mexico, shared about the severe situation of Mexican immigrants in the US, and how they are illegal yet essential, as a lot of them are involved in the agricultural sector. She also informed that around 600 Mexicans have died in the US.

She talked about the agricultural workers not receiving the health care facilities in the US, especially in the rural areas.

From the 1st of June, Mexico has started opening up from region by region depending upon the number of cases, and only then the situation of the migrants can be solved.

Dr. Sandhya Rao Mehta, Prof. Sultan Qaboos University, Oman, shared that Oman is one of seven gulf countries where India has been sending its labour. The COVID outbreak has been managed up to satisfactory levels in the country because of its centralised political system. She told that around 27,000 jobs are estimated to have been lost in Oman, and it has affected health, education and livelihood drastically. In the domestic sector, women have no access to the outside world. According to her, economic challenges are not going away in the new normal as the country is facing oil and nationalisation issues. If value added tax (VAT) is imposed, it will make migration even more expensive.

Prof. Faiz Omar Mohammad Jamie, University of Bahri, Sudan, explained the condition of the pandemic in Sudan, and how the citizens coming from China spread the virus in the country. Sudan has migrants working in international organisations like the UN, and the pandemic has resulted in very closed and tight restrictions on movement. The country is facing severe challenges of loss of jobs due to lockdown and closure of industries.

Prof. Bahija Jamal, Morocco, shared that migration to Spain and the whole of Europe is common in Morocco, which led to the spread of the virus.

The country does not have any accurate data about migrants, which makes the situation even worse. The Moroccan government has followed a restrictive approach (by suspension of people’s movement) and a supportive approach (by giving support to the vulnerable groups and providing medical insurance cards). However, the migrants are not able to benefit from these supportive measures.


Also Read : Jobs for Returnee Migrants: Local Self-Governments and Cooperatives Must Lead

Participants in the webinar like Prof. Binod Khadria, Prof. C.S. Bhatt, Ambassador Manju Seth, Prof. Paddy Siyanga Knudsen, and Ms. Nasra Shah provided their comments on the discussions.

The webinar was attended by almost 200 scholars from around 45 countries. Each panellist was given a time period of 7 minutes to present their views.

Dr. Renu Modi, who has been associated with the Centre for African Studies, University of Mumbai, moderated the webinar.

GRFDT is a consortium of researchers and policy makers drawn from national and international universities, institutes and organisations. It is the largest such group focusing specifically on the issues related to migration, diaspora and transnationalism. GRFDT works as an academic and policy think tank by engaging national and international experts from academics, practitioners and policy makers, industry experts in a broad range of areas such as migration policies, transnational linkages of development, human rights, culture, gender, etc.