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Covid-19 effects on migrants highlighted

By Jawwad Rizvi
October 29, 2020

LAHORE:In the wake of Covid-19 pandemic and its repercussion, around 90 million people are expected to fall into poverty and in reference to South and South East Asian economies, the future of migrant workers does not seem encouraging.

Aspiring migrants had to borrow and spend huge amounts to obtain work visas but now they are facing an uncertain future as destination countries have toughened their migration policies and air travel remains limited.

These views were stated by Director Centre on International Migration, Remittances and Diaspora (CIMRAD), Lahore School of Economics, Dr Rashid Amjad while inaugurating the second international virtual conference.

The title of the webinar was “Impact of Covid-19 on Migrants, Migration Flows and Remittances: Focus on South and South East Asia.” The webinar was participated by national and international migration researchers and experts.

Prof Phillipe Fargues, founding director of Migration Policy Centre in Florence, set the tune for the webinar by raising questions about the nature and impact of the pandemic. The role of migrants in spreading the disease was also looked at.

Dr Rashid Amjad, Director, CIMRAD, in response to this summed up that in most countries the migrants were not responsible for spreading the disease as they constituted only a small minority of population. Dr Amjad raised the issue of the psycho-social impact on the migrants and return migrants of the pandemic. Dr G M Arif highlighted the need to consider the pandemic’s impact on labour markets. According to his estimate, 1 to 2.5 percent of Pakistan’s total labour force would be affected as a consequence. Dr Rashid expressed his concern over the grim picture these projections painted for the future of Pakistan’s economy. Mahendra Kumar Rai, researcher at the Nepal Institute of Development Studies (NIDS), pointed towards the halt in the flow of migrants.

Dr Nasra Shah, professor at Lahore School of Economics, emphasised that the sending countries should remain cognizant of not only the financial situation but also the non-economic factors, such as the impact of Covid-19 on Kafala system, chain migration, and attitudes of the host countries that will determine the demand for foreign workers in the Gulf in a post-Covid-19 scenario.