Sixteen civil society organisations of Bangladesh have urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Gueterres to appeal to the destination countries to refrain from the policy forced repatriation of migrants in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a letter, they said they are concerned that some destination countries are exerting pressure on the origin countries to take back the latter's nationals who have been deemed undocumented and those in detention and/or prison. These destination countries also warned of blacklisting the origin countries which do not adhere to their wish.
"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," read the statement.
"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," it continued.
"We urge you as the Secretary-General to appeal to those destination countries to refrain from pursuing such policy at this critical juncture."
The letter comes nearly two weeks after some Middle Eastern countries created pressures on the labour-sending countries, mostly from South Asia, to bring back undocumented migrants and those in deportation centers and in prison.
In a letter jointly signed by the Bangladesh Civil Society for Migrants Chair Professor CR Abrar and Co-chair Syed Saiful Haque, they said countries of origin now face the prospect of 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, in the spirit of international solidarity, to call upon international agencies such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other partners to create a global fund under the auspices of the UN to support the countries of origin in the rehabilitation of returnee migrants.
"We also request you to mobilise the Global Migration Group to champion the cause of vulnerable migrants affected by Covid 19."
The letter says in many countries employers have terminated the contracts of workers making the latter extremely vulnerable.
"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 to 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 a food crisis at home.
Many of the migrants are also facing food crisis, and it is imperative for the destination countries to provide emergency food support, the organisation said.
They commended Portugal for extending equal treatment of regular and irregular migrants in accessing healthcare and also of Spain and Portugal for considering regularisation of workers for specific period who are in irregular status.
"We appeal to you to invite other countries to take similar measures; particularly to ensure the food security to those members of diaspora who are in distress," they said.