Minister of Interior Sar Kheng held a consultative meeting on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of providing short-, medium- and long-term assistance for the more than 85,000 Cambodian migrant workers who have returned home amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sar Kheng said the workers need help while waiting for migrant-receiving countries to re-open their borders.
“So far 85,000 migrant workers have returned from various countries, especially Thailand, and they are scattered across the Kingdom. Some of them can’t support their livelihoods for too long.
“The Thai government has placed the country in a state of emergency, with many parts of that nation in lockdown, so our migrant workers cannot go back,” he said.
UN officials who also attended the meeting, Sar Kheng said, had offered to support and join hands with the government to address the issue.
“The government has put forth principles and measures with the Ministry of Health taking the lead in preventing the spread of Covid-19,” he said.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance, he said, has also introduced measures to address socio-economic issues. “The mechanisms set up by the ministry are working, even though they are not working well in some areas yet,” he said.
A report issued by the interior ministry after the meeting said assistance for migrants is vital to maintaining social security.
“The meeting focused on certain challenges in managing risks to vulnerable Cambodian people, especially migrant workers who have returned to their families and communities.
“The meeting also helped us develop measures to prevent a possible outbreak of Covid-19 in communities,” it said.
The ministry’s secretary of state Chou Bun Eng, who is also the permanent vice-chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT), said migrant workers have generally become a burden to their families as they would not be able to return to their host countries until the Covid-19 crisis is over.
“Given the changing socio-economic conditions caused by Covid-19 and its possible long-term impact, the NCCT and relevant UN agencies dealing with migrant workers’ safety are discussing immediate responses to the crisis.
“We are also discussing the medium- and long-term response to Covid-19 impacts, which could cause social insecurity,” she said.
Pauline Tamesis, the UN resident coordinator for Cambodia, said the World Health Organisation (WHO) has and will continue to support the Kingdom in the fight against Covid-19.
“We are glad the Cambodian government has been providing treatment to Covid-19 patients free of charge. We will continue to work in solidarity with it to contain the pandemic,” she said.