Are migrants forgotten more than ever during the Covid-19 crisis?


Corona virus took over the globe and its affairs. Like never, mankind is already experiencing vast set of consequences which are endless, and for which no one could give any predictions. The omitted group during this crisis are migrants, who are keeping arriving in the Western Europe countries (mostly to Germany, Sweden, and Denmark). Their bare chances to get a job in any of the EU Member States is now lower than ever due to general jobs market crash. Did Europe really forget the migrants? How could it facilitate the crisis occurring in parallel to the global unprecedented one?

This article shall offer a review of how media report on the potential problems with migrants’ employment once they reach their destination country.

Dutch News reports that migrants and eastern Europe labour force are not the same case. They claim that “these cheap EU workers are now indispensable”. While many Dutch people are at home, the Poles, the Romanians and the Bulgarians who can, are at work. These ‘cheap Polish labour migrants’, the ones so often accused of defrauding the Dutch social security system, are the order pickers, sorters, truck drivers and cleaners helping to keep the Netherlands going. They are the ones who will be called in to pick the tomatoes, the strawberries and the asparagus because Dutch farmers need them. But in return, the government must take care of them. The government must protect them too. Supermarkets can be fined up to €4,000 if they do not create a safe environment for their customers. But why not bring in fines for the staffing agencies and their clients who fail to comply with the RIVM corona guidelines on the work floor, in housing and in transport to work?

In its detailed analysis, a very influential think tank ECDPM reports that “less vulnerable workers, such as migrant workers earning income in mid-level or lower-income jobs, have been losing work and income and many have returned home since the Covid-19 outbreak (some also because they were afraid of getting infected)”.  They continue claiming that negative effects have been felt by migrant workers across a number of sectors, ranging from tourism to factory work, but this may not be different from other workers hit by the pandemic economically. Yet, migrant workers are often the biggest losers when economic crises occur – because of their short-term contracts, their vulnerable statuses or the sectors they are likely working in, amongst other things. Similar effects took place during the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

So as the world economy comes to a gradual halt, and more migrants return or are prevented from going abroad for work, we will likely see a decline in remittances being sent, leading to cutting of vital support to communities. African migrants residing in countries of the North or African trade hubs such as Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, will feel the impact, especially if they work in goods and services that are location-based. At the same time, the Covid-19 crisis shows how reliant economies are on migrant workers – many of which are in key occupations. The crisis is also revealing more quickly what is already known: that certain segments of the labour market need workers urgently, and that includes the health sector. Europe is currently learning this lesson fast. Medical workers from China, Cuba and Russia are supporting the Italian Lombardy region in fighting the virus. Calls are being made to speed up the recognition of skills of foreign care workers so they can quickly help increase capacities in hospitals. We may be able to find more pragmatic solutions for processes that have dragged on for long. The debate about ‘ethical recruitment’ and skills and migration will, as a result, likely gain in prominence again, especially with the pandemic affecting all countries and with health care systems being under strain everywhere.

An influential portal “The Economic Times” reports that in Europe, now the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Union has slammed shut its external borders to halt the spread of Covid-19. Countries like France, Spain and Italy have also imposed lockdowns on their populations to restrict movements and halt the spread of the virus. Migrants and asylum seekers have become one of the most vulnerable groups hard hit by the crisis as public services that usually tend to the group are wound down.

This article presented an overview of how media perceived problems in employment of migrants who are coming from the Middle East. Their chances are significantly decreased as the Covid-19 crisis was developed, and no one knows how the future steps will be facilitated.

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