The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Cambodia and UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Cambodia released a survey report describing the hardships and vulnerabilities faced by migrant workers who returned to Cambodia from abroad following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It found that nearly 30 per cent of migrant households have no income at all and nearly 60 per cent of them have no source of earnings in Cambodia.
The report titled Rapid Assessment of Social and Health Impact of Covid-19 on Returning Migrant Workers in Cambodia was issued on December 18 to mark the 30th anniversary of International Migrants Day observed worldwide.
It found that since Thailand began its measures to curb Covid-19 by reducing economic activities and closing its borders in March, more than 120,000 Cambodian migrant workers returned to Cambodia. The situation has created a humanitarian emergency, posing serious concerns of socio-economic vulnerability for them and their families.
The survey was conducted via telephone interviews of 1,108 returning migrant workers in the four provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Prey Veng and Siem Reap. The report cited 56 participants as key informants.
The data indicate that more than half of migrant workers have debts while only 25 per cent of them have and ID Poor Card for social assistance. Over 50 per cent of them have problems accessing health care due to a lack of money or distance to health care providers, the report said.
Kristin Parco, chief of mission for IOM Cambodia, said that responses to the pandemic are creating an unprecedented and devastating impact on migration and human mobility. Many migrant workers, she said, face loss of employment and wages, healthcare and safety vulnerabilities, exclusion and discrimination.
“They need our collective support, and if we are united, we can make migration work for all. The actions we take today to support migrants will ensure we are better placed to respond to the challenges of tomorrow.
“We all need to support the efforts of the Royal Government of Cambodia, the private sector, diasporas, non-government organisations, academia and civil society to revive economies impacted by Covid-19 and find innovative ways to reduce mobility restrictions and facilitate movement of goods, services and people,” she said.
The report presented three recommendations. It said ID Poor cards should be provided to migrant workers who meet eligibility criteria. Migrant workers should get support in accessing job or vocational training opportunities to enable them to reintegrate back into their communities.
For those who wish to migrate abroad again, administrative procedures should be simplified to encourage people to pursue safe and regular migration channels.
Chou Bun Eng, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior and permanent vice-chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking of Cambodia, said in a foreword to the report that Cambodians seeking opportunities for a better livelihood in neighbouring countries sit just above the poverty line. Their return to Cambodia without jobs means that they can easily slide back into poverty.
“We hope that the findings and recommendations from this assessment will help inform stakeholders to respond to the challenge of building back better through developing concrete short-term, intermediate and long-term action plans to support migrants, their families and children,” Bun Eng wrote.
UNFPA Representative Daniel Alemu said the socio-economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has been the loss of livelihoods for millions of people worldwide, including Cambodian migrants. He noted that based on evidence presented, the report asserts that it is important for policy-makers to focus on the health and other needs of these most vulnerable migrants, including pregnant women, adolescents and youth to ensure that adequate support is provided for them and their families.
“This is an urgent signal for action, and the report recommends the directions to follow,” he said.