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Article

25 Apr 2020

Author:
Safoora, Siasat Daily

South Asia: Migrant workers in the Gulf stranded with no resources, assistance to return home

"Sick, stranded and broke: Crisis hits Gulf’s migrant workers", 26 April 2020

...The oil-rich Gulf is reliant on the cheap labour of millions of foreigners — mostly from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka — many of whom live in squalid camps far from the region’s showy skyscrapers and malls.

But the spread of coronavirus, alongside shrinking oil-driven economies, has left many workers sick and countless others unemployed, unpaid and at the mercy of unscrupulous employers.

...Despite strict curfews in force for weeks, the Gulf states with the biggest populations of foreign workers — Saudi, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar — are still reporting rising numbers of coronavirus cases.

To try to reduce transmission, Gulf authorities have moved workers from camps into temporary lodgings, while establishing mass screening centres and using drones in some neighbourhoods to warn people against congregating.

The UAE has been the most vocal among Gulf countries in demanding governments repatriate workers, many of whom have been laid off or gone unpaid as business halts and oil prices plummet...

Pakistan has allowed repatriations to proceed but warned it is hindered by the lack of testing and quarantine facilities at its airports. 

The pandemic has highlighted the problem of migrant workers living and working in conditions that leave them vulnerable to disease, said Rothna Begum, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch...