Migrant Lives Matter: Crisis of Migrant Workers in the Era of Pandemic

coronavirus migrants 2

The ordeal encountered by the migrant workers globally is very reflected due to the epidemic. According to the World Economic Forum, there is an estimated amount of 139 million migrants in the country. The International labour organisation has estimated that the pandemic will leave around 400 million people poverty-stricken. The mass exodus and reverse exodus has endangered the lives of migrants irrespective of caste, class, faith, gender and other construed identities. As the country is witnessing unlock in different phases and we are in the unlock 6 phase, where there are multiple brutality beyond covid has been encountered by the migrant workers, it raises several questions as about the plight and predicaments of migrants. Economist Jean Dreze has mentioned that the lockdown has been a death sentence for the underprivileged in our country so far as the lives of the migrants are perturbed. The brink of crisis looms large on them as the problem is far from being over, as they are not only labourers, but domestic care workers, heath care and many confined in unorganised sectors like small factories, etc. The vulnerability and challenges are numerous as they have to survive the stigma of the pandemic and many more prejudices which makes their lives miserable in the post-covid times.

Migration Matters

The pandemic has brought to the spotlight that how migration is important and human mobilities matters, Migration is linked to human development, people migrate in search of livelihood, may be forced or voluntary, Women migrated traditionally to join their spouses abroad but today female migrate independently as the concept of breadwinners has changed, earlier it was a man who was a bread winner but today women have become breadwinners too. The pandemic has exposed them to various prejudices not only during the lockdown, and has also posed several questions that whether they need to work or not, as poverty will be more dangerous than pandemic so migrating for work is the only measure left for them. These workers are most affected by the catastrophe with no residual means. Lack of safety nets, destitution, social crisis unconditional circumstance for working has left them marginalised and has significantly affected. The importance of Migrants is quite apparent because of the pandemic, it has made them gained prominence that they are a part of wider community and their existence is vital and needs to be addressed. Historically, signification of migration is essential for global growth, remittances have been an important feature in human development which fosters social and economic development.

Stigmas and Shame

As they are the frontline workers, existing inequalities has been exacerbating xenophobia, discrimination and inequalities, hate speech are rampant online harassment of labourers, everyday prejudices and crime. Women, children are in a state of being endangered as trafficking and child marriage among the vulnerable migrants is on rise. Exploitation of women migrants and their children due to the catastrophic conditions has increased violence against women and children. Termination of work due to the disease has also overblown the workers harder which has affected their subsistence levels. Even the elderly migrants agonized due to the terror of pandemic as well as the associated detriments and biases. Unable to find work, and inability to send remittances home due to the covid calamity, it has affected their families too. Migrant smuggling, bonded labour and trafficking have been some of the issues that have been doubled due to the pandemic as the universal pandemic has put them at risk. Due to necessity and survival, migrants are becoming victims of these social menaces.

Migration Governance

Addressing the vulnerabilities and providing a counter framework to eradicate all forms of discrimination against them is needed at this time. Stigma related sensitisation and awareness among the masses should be the priority. Migrant volunteering and awareness is the need of the hour, role of NGOs and Civil Society, Media is equally important to empower the migrants, and adopting better strategies and legislative measures to curb different forms of violence against them is what the requirement is. Enhancing, monitoring and proactively addressing the needs of the migrant workers is a vital necessity, ensuring better communication strategies, safe , orderly and regular migration, for prospering the society and  preparing them for a better post-covid world will  promote and cultivate  a better world for them.

Dr.Nupur Pattanaik, Teaching Sociology, Department of Sociology, Central University of Odisha, Koraput



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