Bilesha Weeraratne Publishes Paper on Plight of Migrant Workers in the Gulf during COVID-19

29 June 2020

IPS Research Fellow and Head of Migration and Urbanisation research, Bilesha Weeraratne, noted that the high number of COVID-19 cases among returning migrant workers has destabilised Sri Lanka’s repatriation efforts and a partially reversed the successful efforts made in the country to curtail the spread of the pandemic. This is because migrant-specific crisis response measures in the Gulf region countries of destination “have focused primarily on returning migrants to their countries of origin”, she highlighted.

In a working paper for the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Dr. Weeraratne explained that temporary labour migration and related remittances are integral components of the South Asian economies. A significant portion of labour migrants from this region head to the Gulf countries. Nevertheless, migrant workers to the Gulf are barred from formally integrating into the socio-economic context in their country of destination.

In this context, using the case of the Kuwait Amnesty and other examples during COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Weeraratne reflected on the disproportionate division of responsibilities between the South Asian and Gulf countries in terms of the assimilation, return and reintegration of migrant workers, in an attempt to improve the well-being of migrant workers through the frameworks of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

Download Working Paper

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