Stranded migrants need safe and dignified return – UN Migrant Workers Committee

GENEVA (1 October) – The UN Committee on Migrant Workers has today called on governments to take immediate action to address the inhumane conditions of migrant workers who are stranded in detention camps and ensure they can have an orderly, safe and dignified return to their home countries.

Migrants, mostly from African and South Asian countries, are regularly scapegoated for the spread of the coronavirus. There are reports of ill-treatment and even torture every single day in detention camps, with allegations that inmates do not receive medical treatment. Some are even left to die,” the independent experts of the Committee said.

The Committee raised deep concerns over the situation of migrant workers, especially those detained in Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and in North African countries such as Libya.

Major media reported in early September that thousands of African migrant workers are locked in cramped and unhygienic camps in Saudi Arabia.  Video images showing detained migrant workers sleeping and eating in facilities with raw sewage spilling across the floor are evidence of the shocking conditions that require immediate action from international community, the Committee stressed. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic is currently wreaking havoc all over the world. In many countries, the death toll is rising, health systems are under challenge, and unemployment rates are unprecedentedly high. While Governments try their utmost to control the most significant health disaster since 1918, they have to be aware of the fact that this pandemic makes migrant workers who have no access to clean water, sanity and health care far more vulnerable than local residents,” the Committee said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Committee stressed: “It is more important than ever that human rights violations perpetrated against migrants must immediately stop.”

 The Committee recalls the Joint Guidance Note on the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Human Rights of Migrants. “We urge the Governments of host and transit countries to strictly protect the human rights of all migrants and to cooperate without delay with the countries of origin to ensure an orderly, safe and dignified return of stranded migrants into their home countries.”