COVID-19 Response: IOM Regional Office for Asia Pacific Situation Report 14 – July 21, 2020

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region continue to face a diverse set of situations related to COVID-19. Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam have reported few or even no cases in the past weeks. However, cases in Afghanistan, Iran, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, and Sri Lanka continue to increase, with concerns for migrants and other vulnerable populations and highlighting the necessity of sustained public health responses, community engagement and ongoing vigilance.

After more than three months of extensive mobility restrictions, several countries in the region are preparing or continuing to resume some international travel, prioritizing repatriation of migrant workers, with some additional exceptions for foreign workers. In Myanmar, more than 70,000 citizens have returned from Thailand, including on repatriation flights. Nearly 50,000 Filipino migrants returned just in the first two weeks of July as international airports started to accept more flights. The Government of Nepal conducted its first phase of repatriation between 5 June and 12 July, repatriating more than 27,000 migrants from 24 countries via the international airport. An additional 42 flights to Nepal will run between 15 and 21 July. In some countries, high numbers of COVID-19 cases amongst returnees have pushed governments to suspend their plans to repatriate migrants and carefully review their standard operating procedures for infection prevention and control among travelers. Countries across the region have varied sets of requirements regarding travel documents, health checks and quarantine procedures, necessitating cross-border collaboration, outreach and information campaigns for migrants, and support to states to facilitate safe border re-opening.

All countries are focused on socioeconomic recovery in the short and long term, especially to address the loss of remittances due to reduced opportunities for migrant workers abroad. For the thousands of stranded migrants from the region who have been unable to repatriate, many face difficulties finding work opportunities to support themselves and their families, and they often lack access to information about relevant services and assistance, for example, related to extending valid work visas or resident status. The Government of Nepal has prioritized creation of job opportunities for more than 700,000 citizens this year, recognizing the drastically increased need for jobs among both returning migrants and other citizens. The governments of Nepal and Bangladesh, among others, are also conducting return intention surveys among migrants abroad to monitor the volume of planned returns.

Furthermore, resumed economic activity can present serious protection risks for migrants and other vulnerable groups. Many migrant workers who have returned to their home countries or provinces since the start of the COVID-19 crisis are interested in re-migrating now that some travel restrictions are being eased. Among the migrants that continue to work, there have been reports of abuse and exploitation of workers during the COVID-19 crisis. These situations have prompted IOM to increase its partnerships with private recruitment agencies and employers, as well as Employment and Labor Ministries, to advocate for migrant worker protections and safe recruitment practices



Source: International Organization for Migration

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