Stakeholders have called for collaboration to strengthen ways of ensuring protection for migrant workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was the outcome of a virtual High Level Panel (HLP) on labour migration in Nigeria on the topic ‘Accentuating the role of government in protecting migrant workers in Nigeria in the context of COVID-19 pandemic’ held recently.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, in his address said migrant workers were facing challenges, which include disruption to travel plans, loss of income, reduced access to support services and visa issues.
Ngige lamented that these particular workers had been pushed into vulnerable or exploitative situations, adding that the pandemic also exposed how no one is safe until all are safe.
The minister said the issue at hand requires a shared and collective interest to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all.
“You will agree with me that the timing of this meeting is very apt in view of the global pandemic which has resulted in severe economic and labour market shocks across the world.
“The political economy of the COVID-19 definitely has had a devastating effect on employment and basic services, rising cost of living and reduced economic activities due to disruption to the global supply chain. This in turn had impacted negatively on most national economies, while migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to border closures which have led to a decrease in remittances and reduced opportunities for labour migration.
“As you may be aware, one of the core responsibilities of Government is the management of organised labour migration and the protection of the rights of migrant workers and their welfare in Nigeria, to ensure safe, regular and orderly labour migration. It is significant to note that migrant workers whose rights are protected are able to live in dignity and security, and contribute more to society both economically and socially than those who are exploited, marginalised and harassed.
“In this regard, the role of Government in the protection of the rights of migrant workers and their welfare cannot be over emphasised. It is in recognition of this fact that my Ministry has initiated measures in furtherance of its mandate of promoting regular labour migration in Nigeria.”
On her part, ILO Regional Labour Migration Specialist for Africa Gloria Moreno-Fontes called on Africa to adopt a common position on Migrant Worker protection based on International Labour Standards (ILS).
She particularly urged the continent to dwell on the negotiation and implementation of Bilateral Labour Agreements (BLAs) to prevent a race to the bottom approach.
She further advocated for the formulation of labour migration policies, rapid strengthening of Embassy/consular capacity as well as extension of social protection and provision of labour market reintegration opportunities.