Sixteen Bangladeshi civil society organisations have urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Gueterres to ask the destination countries to shelve their policies of deporting migrant workers amid Covid-19 pandemic.
In a letter issued on Monday, they expressed worries as some destination countries have exerted pressure on the countries of origins to take back their nationals who are undocumented in the host countries and also those behind bars.
Some home countries have been threatened with consequences, including revision of labour relations, if they don't adhere to the policies of destination countries, the letter said.
"Under international law in any crisis situation, it is incumbent upon the state concerned to take care of all people in its land including migrants, irrespective of their status.
"Moreover, bringing back migrants in the midst of a pandemic will heighten the risk of the spread of the virus that the concerned country can ill afford.
The letter comes nearly two weeks after some Middle Eastern countries have mounted pressures on the labour-sending countries, mostly of South Asia, to bring back their undocumented migrants.
In a letter jointly signed by Bangladesh Civil Society for Migrants (BCSM) Chair Prof CR Abrar and Co-chair Syed Saiful Haque, they said countries of origin now face the prospect of a large-scale unscheduled return of their nationals from the destination countries.
"These countries have very limited capacity to rehabilitate the returnees by engaging them in livelihood activities," it said.
They urged the UN secretary general to call upon international agencies such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other development partners to create a global fund under the auspices of the UN to support the countries of origin in the rehabilitation of the returnee migrants.
The letter pointed out that there has been a major spread of Covid-19 in dormitories of migrant workers in Singapore due to a poor and crowded condition.
They recommended that the destination countries ensure appropriate accommodation of migrant workers as per the WHO guidelines.
The letter says in many countries employers have terminated the contracts of workers, pushing them towards a razor edge.
"We believe that governments of destination countries should discourage termination of workers. In case of such termination it is the duty of the destination countries to look after those retrenched," the letter said, urging the UN head exert his office's influence on the destination countries to take responsibility of such vulnerable workers.
They also requested the UN head to advise the governments to take measures so that migrants, who have jobs, can transfer remittances to their families, who depend on remittance and are now going through food crises at home.
Many of the migrants are also facing a food crisis, and it is imperative for the destination countries to provide emergency food support, the organisations said.
They also called for a system to be put in place in the destination countries so that the laid-off workers get priority when the dust settles.
The letter also requested the employers of host countries to clear all the dues and benefit claims of the returning workers as soon as possible.
Members of BCSM include Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, WARBE Development Foundation, Bangladeshi Ovhibashi Mohila Sramik Association, Manusher Jonno Foundation, Ain o Salish Kendra, BASUG, IMA Research Foundation, International Network of Alternative Financial Institutions Bangladesh, Bangladesh Construction and Wood Workers Federation, Young Power in Social Action, Bangladesh Ovibashi Adhikar Forum, BASTOB, Rights Jessore, Center for Development Communications DEVCOM Ltd, Films 4 Peace Foundation and Change Makers.