The corona pandemic brings many injustices out of a shadowy existence into the glare of the public eye. The most recent example is the miserable working conditions in Germany’s meat industry. Affected by the corona outbreak in this industry are almost exclusively migrant workers. In general, the pandemic has made it clear how much individual sectors of the economy depend on the performance of migrant workers. In addition to the meat industry, this applies in particular to the construction, agriculture, health and cleaning industries.
After all, Corona now seems to introduce a cautious rethinking. The myth of the” unqualified labor " of the harvesters has given way to the realization that labor in the field is skilled labor. After his recovery, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to the efforts of his nurses – “Jenny from New Zealand and Luis from Portugal”. According to the OECD, over 30 per cent of doctors and over 20 per cent of nurses in the UK are immigrants. Portugal granted full citizenship rights to all migrants and asylum seekers during the pandemic. Italy is planning one of the largest regularisation programmes for people without valid residence status in European history. For example, around 600,000 people, who often work without a contract in the fields of Agriculture, Fisheries, care and domestic work, should be able to apply for a legal residence permit. And the German federal government now wants to stop the exploitative conditions with an occupational safety program for the meat industry. In the meat industry, according to estimates by trade unions, 80 percent of the workforce is employed through contracts – most of them from Eastern Europe. It remains to be hoped that these initial positive reactions will form the much-vaunted “new normal” for migrants in the long term.
But these positive approaches cannot hide the fact that the Situation is bleak for most migrant workers worldwide. For them, the pandemic brought numerous restrictions and partly existential threats. “Home Office” is simply not an Option, especially for the army of low-wage workers. Those who live in the employer’s household, such as migrant domestic workers, have already been among the most vulnerable groups. In countries such as Lebanon, the defenseless situation in the crisis increasingly led to a form of modern slavery. Female domestic workers, who can no longer be afforded, are simply dropped off in front of the embassy of their country of origin; they are threatened with homelessness.
Government aid packages to deal with health threats and job losses are not available to many migrants.
Containment measures also lead to great economic hardship. This is due, among other things, to precarious or temporary employment and employment in the informal sector, without access to social protection, paid sick leave or support in the event of loss of earnings. State aid packages to deal with health threats and job losses are not available to many migrants. For people with irregular residence status, this applies even more sharply.
In Qatar, 40,000 people were quarantined in mid-March after an outbreak of Covid-19 in one of the largest mass shelters for migrant workers, which is monitored by the police and military. In Singapore, at times more than half of the migrant workers, some of whom have to share a single room with 20 others, were ill with Covid-19. In short :the more precarious the work and the worse the working conditions, the higher the infection rate.
The loss of jobs and income as a result of Covid-19 leads to a decline in home remittances. Remittances) of migrants, with devastating consequences for around 800 million people who depend on them. These money transfers are an important source of income and serve many people in developing countries as an insurance mechanism in times of crisis. Remittances have proven to have a positive effect on economic growth. Migrants sent an estimated 554 billion dollars in 2019 in the form of money and goods to their home countries with middle or low incomes. In 28 countries, they accounted for at least 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. For 2020, the World Bank now predicts a decline in money transfers of almost 20 percent, which will collapse the foreign exchange revenues of states, but especially the economic Situation of many households from Mexico to Nigeria and Ukraine. Less Migration means less money sent home, more inequality and greater vulnerability.
According to the latest figures from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), almost 80 million people are currently on the run. Just over half of them are displaced persons in their own country.
The Situation is even more threatening for the numerous people on the run. According to the latest figures from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), almost 80 million people are currently on the run. Just over half of them are displaced persons in their own country. The situation in the host regions is further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Refugees are the first to feel the economic and social upheavals. Contrary to what populist insults usually portray, many refugees pursue a job, usually in precarious and often informal conditions, which can be ended from one day to the next. By the end of April, more than half of the refugees interviewed by the UNHCR in Lebanon had already lost their livelihood; 70 percent reported that they had to forgo meals. The consequences included enormous psychosocial problems-children were taken out of school, refugees were forced to beg or Prostitution to survive and threatened to fall into the hands of traffickers.
Cramped living conditions increase the spread rate of the Virus. Residents of refugee camps are particularly affected, as they are among the most densely populated places in the world. The call for social distancing must seem like a cruel joke to its inhabitants. This also applies to the people who live under unsustainable conditions in overcrowded camps on the Greek islands. Cases of Coronavirus infections in the Greek islands led to camps such as Moria being quarantined preventively. An outbreak would have catastrophic consequences for the refugees.
The restrictive border closures and the suspension of resettlement programs, which were only gradually resumed in June, exacerbated this Situation. In addition, states have begun to slow down due process and bureaucratic processes. For example, the US has introduced an increasing number of restrictions that have been arbitrarily adopted by closing courts and postponing hearings. In Italy, the number of asylum procedures has been drastically reduced, as only one person is allowed to enter the office at the same time. Many countries rejected people at the border and temporarily did not accept Visa or asylum applications.
The first goal must now be a return to the old normality with its Standards – in order to continue to work on their urgently needed improvement.
There is a danger that temporary measures will become longer-term measures. Therefore, the first goal must be a return to the old normality with its Standards – in order to continue to work on their urgently needed improvement. The UN global refugee pact can be an important Instrument here. It stresses the principle of shared responsibility, focuses on those directly affected and their human rights, involves diverse actors such as the private sector, cities and the refugees themselves, and advocates access for refugees to national health systems. However, humanitarian aid lacks the money. UNHCR, for example, has only been half-financed in recent years. Especially in times of a pandemic, however, multi-year, non-earmarked payments to the UN agencies would be necessary in order to react quickly and flexibly.
The global migration pact may have become quiet, but for the United Nations, its commitment to “Safe, Orderly and regular Migration” in times of pandemic is more important than ever. The UN Migration Network, which was established two years ago, has drawn up a large number of recommendations with the involvement of migrant civil society, which can form a basis for progressive solutions to a new normality for global Migration. These include measures such as access to social security and government benefits, particularly in the health sector, regardless of residence status and without fear of deportation, or safer and cheaper ways of transferring money.
In Europe, too, migration policy is often characterized by resistance, discouragement and fear of xenophobic voters. A determined implementation of the two” Global Compacts “involving migrants and refugees themselves could indeed lead to the” new concept of human mobility " that the UN Secretary-General sees as an opportunity in the midst of the massive challenges posed by the pandemic.
The evacuations of refugees from the camps of the Greek islands promised by several member states of the European Union have so far taken place only to a very small extent. The EU Commission’s “pact for Migration and asylum” must finally find a long-term approach that is in line with international and EU law and European values. And the German EU presidency 2020 must also address this humanitarian catastrophe – the EU’s credibility as a human rights advocate and representative of global solidarity is at stake.