I thank you, Hon’ble Minister, for joining us today and for your important statement.
Ambassador Geraldine, Fellow Co-Chairs, Excellencies, Distinguished Panelists, Dear Colleagues – good afternoon.
I thank you for joining us today to discuss about the state of migration in the time of Covid-19 and its impact on migrant health and remittances. We are delighted to have with us today experts from IFAD, WHO and the UN to share with us their perspectives on remittances, health and impact on SDGs.] We are here among friends of migration, and our objective today is to have a frank and constructive discussion on how to mitigate the migrants’ crisis in this pandemic situation. And we have gathered here today, all Friends of Migrants to see how best we can do that.
The pandemic is no longer a health crisis alone. It has become a global economic and social crisis. It is also a crisis for international migration. Yesterday, the Secretary General launched his much-awaited policy brief on people on the move, where he highlighted that the pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on migrants. There are many such statistics from all around to validate this statement. Our concept note captures some of those. I will not repeat them.
With the outbreak of the pandemic, in many places migrants are in a precarious situation, denied of their rights, even denied access to urgent health care services. [We will hear from our expert panelists soon about the health impact on migrants from Covid.] Hundreds and thousands of them have been made jobless. To make things worse, many are being forced to return home with an uncertain future. Remittance is plummeting globally. The World Bank predicts that there would be over 20% decline in remittances in the low and lower middle-income countries. This would have drastic consequences; driving many remittance receiving households in the developing world to poverty. COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerabilities of migrants, and also exacerbated those vulnerabilities.
Let us turn to the larger picture of migration and development. The contribution of the migrants to the socio-economic progress of their host countries as well as their countries of origin is well recognized. Migrants have been the frontline contributors to health sector in many destination countries during the pandemic, as a significant number of doctors and other health workers in those countries are from migrant communities. Many have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Yet, we ask ourselves: Why do migrants have to bear the biggest brunt in a crisis, despite the pivotal role of migration in development in both their home and host countries? What are the gaps that we need to address in our policies to ensure protection to the migrants in all situations and reduce their vulnerability to any such shocks? What do we do to integrate them in the recovery strategy? Perhaps, the pandemic crisis would provide us a moment for reflection.
Global solidarity and cooperation holds the key to overcome this unprecedented crisis. It would be imperative to ensure that recovery package and plans include migrants as an integral part of their strategies. National efforts must be supported by the UN and other international development partners and stakeholders.
As we discuss about migrants issues during pandemic situation, we need to adopt a holistic approach looking at post-Covid 19 situations as well, when the world expects to get back to normalcy. As we pledge to recover and build back better, we may start thinking how to re-create conditions for continuity of migrant workers’ contribution to economies and societies. There should be political will for re-tapping into migrant workers’ expertise while resuming migratory flows. And this may require innovative approaches to international cooperation in migration management. The Global Compact on Migration remains a relevant framework in this context.
And if we fail to do that, that would only make achievement of the 2030 Agenda more difficult. I can say that for my country, remittances sent by our migrants have a significant contribution to our socio-economic development; from poverty reduction to empowerment of women.
In this backdrop, it is encouraging to hear about the initiatives of some countries to remove barriers and facilitate migrants’ access to labour market, social protection, and basic services. Portugal has temporarily granted all migrants and asylum seekers citizenship rights. Italy has also taken progressive measures in easing immigration. These are all steps in the right direction. However, these should not only be emergency measures; there must be policy steps to make migration a viable development tool even in the recovery efforts. If we fail, irregular migration and human trafficking will increase, which I believe, would be detrimental for our collective interest.
We greatly welcome the launch of the Secretary General’s Policy Brief, on “COVID 19 and the People on the Move”. We also commend Switzerland and the UK for their Joint call to Action on Remittances in Crisis which recognizes the importance of keeping remittance flowing to the home countries despite the likely Covid-induced recessions.
Finally, I wish to share with you that yesterday we launched a Joint Statement on the Impact of Covid-19 on Migrants and we look forward to having the support of all of you present here. It’s a comprehensive statement covering all aspects of the migration crisis, and we sincerely believe that it will mobilize practical, humane and responsible responses to the crisis faced globally by migrants, in the true spirit of global solidarity.
I will stop here, and I look forward to having a productive discussion.
I thank you.