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Wait for the migrant: Once opportunities are there, they will return – The Indian Express

Written by Yoginder K. Alagh | Updated: July 10, 2020 9:26:39 am Statements emphasising that in a downturn economy, local labour will fill the gap, simply ignore the cycles in the demand for labour. (Illustration by C R Sasikumar)

Migrants, very often, get an undeserved bad name in our market economy. However, in Indias not very old experience, and in the process of development generally, as migration plays a major developmental role its careless and somewhat irresponsible to downplay the role of migrant workers. Statements emphasising that in a downturn economy, local labour will fill the gap, simply ignore the cycles in the demand for labour. We in the cities, after all, will have to worry about our needs whenever the M or the W-shaped swing takes place.

In the Seventies of the last century, the economist K N Raj, a guru to many of us, brought the importance of migrant labour to our attention. Raj, an example to many of us, worked in India for most of his career. But at that time, certain compelling personal reasons led him to work with the UN. He chose to go to the ILO and set up the ILO ARTEP an Asian Regional Employment Programme. There Raj brought to our notice the historical role of migration in Japans development. He propagated the work of the eminent Japanese economist Kaoru Ishikawa. Ishikawa had shown that labour migrated to those Japanese prefectures which were growing fast economically, including agriculturally. Diagrammatically, if you plotted output per unit of land against labour per unit of land, you got an inverse relationship in a rectangular hyperbola. If agricultural productivity went up, more labour was sucked into the prefecture. Much like migrant workers from UP and Bihar going to the Green Revolution belt.

Raj wanted to test Ishikawas hypothesis in India. He asked me, G S Bhalla and Amit Bhaduri to do this job. He knew me because he was a great admirer of my patience in selecting younger people at the Centre for Development Studies in Thiruvananthapuram and holding my own against some of the bigwigs of the institute who tended to be very formal.

I had co-authored a book with Bhalla on district-level agricultural experience and had a lot of data. Over many rounds of analysis and discussions, Bhaduri kept on saying that this business was a truism. At one stage, a little fatigued, I had to tell him: We dont want to work with falsisms, do we? Lets go ahead. This was the origin of the, by now, well-known Alagh, Bhalla and Bhaduri thesis. Our paper proved that there was indeed a suction mechanism in Indian agriculture.

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Not satisfied, Raj organised a set of seminars on the issue in different parts of India. At Bengaluru, D T Lakdawala, the then deputy chairman of the Planning Commission chaired the meeting. D M Nanjundappa, chairman of the Karnataka State Planning Commission, said that if instead of irrigation pumps we had the old buffalo driven wheels and water was lifted by buckets, employment in well irrigation would be higher. Bhalla, a Marxist by inclination and very critical of what he thought were ante-diluvian ideas, responded that if we do irrigation with spoons, employment would be even higher. Nanjundappa protested that Bhalla is making fun of him. Lakdawala, the great liberal, doused the fire.

Later, the ILO economist of Pakistani origin, Rashid Amjad, published a book that talked about the similar experience of migrant workers in several other countries, making the Ishikawa hypothesis a universal theory endorsed by the ILO. Labour migration as a serious policy issue had arrived.

In this century, as the different globalisation crises hit us, Iwan J Azis, the Indonesian economist who held positions at the Cornell University in the US and the National University of Indonesia, and I looked at reverse migration. Azis showed that the Southeast Asian economies were chugging along at 6 per cent plus growth when the SARS outbreak hit the region. The Thai baht lost half its value in a few days. The contagion was a lot like the later viruses. In a few months, many countries lost upto a third of their wealth. India, I showed, fared better because it was a relatively closed economy.

Azis showed that there was reverse migration. The migrants went back to their villages where they did not have to starve. They had picked up skills in the cities which helped them initiate agro-based development like diversification away from rice in Indonesia. The experience was similar in Philippines and Vietnam. Migrants were regarded as an asset.

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At a dinner in Delhi, I was made to sit at the head table with the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. I had written to him to get the meltdown in Surat looked into. He turned to me and said, Alagh saheb, sab theek hain (Everything is all right). I didnt have the heart to complain.

Migration has always been a shock absorber. It is this role we choked off by regional lockdowns and transportation blockages, causing enormous suffering and many deaths. I get disturbed when some very eminent colleagues recognise the uncertainty of the situation and yet choose livelihood over life. A filled up belly may starve. But the dead wont come back. This is not the empirical welfare economics my teachers many of them Nobel Prize winners taught me. Good economics doesnt make careless choices between life and death.

We have now, hopefully, learnt from our mistakes. Today, many of the migrants may say that they will never come back. But once opportunities are there, they will return. Until then, it is not quite kosher to stop them from going home under pressure from builder lobbies. The market should be allowed to work for both industry and labour.

In fact, the reverse migration could bolster the agricultural sector in the short-run. We should integrate the process of reverse migration with agro-based development in the short-run and wait for the migration back to cities as we get out of this disaster.

This article first appeared in the print edition on July 10, 2020 under the title Wait for the migrant. The writer, a former Union Minister, is an economist.

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Wait for the migrant: Once opportunities are there, they will return - The Indian Express

In Singapore, an Orderly Election and a (Somewhat) Surprising Result – The New York Times

Face-masked citizens lined up to vote in Singapore on Friday, with plenty of space separating them from each other. Their temperatures had been checked. Before receiving their ballots, they spritzed their hands with sanitizer, and many put on disposable gloves.

If any country could successfully carry out a general election during a global pandemic, it was surely Singapore, a rich, manicured city-state with a population that has largely been conditioned to follow the rules.

The winner was never in doubt, either, even though balloting was extended by two hours to accommodate the long lines.

But while victory went to the center-right Peoples Action Party, which has held power longer than any other elected political party in the world, results released early Saturday showed a surprising slip in its support. Its share of the popular vote fell to 61 percent, a nearly nine-point swing from elections five years ago. The leading opposition party took a record 10 of Parliaments 93 seats.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the 68-year-old son of the nations founding father, said he would stay at the helm until the coronavirus crisis passed, and he acknowledged his weakened mandate.

The results reflect the pain and anxiety that Singaporeans feel in this crisis, the loss of income, the anxiety about jobs, Mr. Lee said early Saturday morning.

If calling an election during a pandemic was meant to showcase the steady hand of a party that has used Singapores greatest strengths deep coffers, technocratic professionalism and a belief in science and technology to battle the coronavirus, the campaign also highlighted divisions in a society that, like many others in the developed world, is struggling with a changing geopolitical and economic landscape.

Several of the parliamentary races proved surprisingly competitive, and high-profile candidates from the governing party lost their contests. Besides adding four seats to its previous showing, the opposition Workers Party won more than 10 percent of the popular vote for the first time.

Singapore rode the wave of globalization to great heights, but with Covid, were entering a period of deglobalization that leaves Singapores economy very vulnerable, Bridget Welsh, a political scientist focused on Southeast Asia, said before the results were announced.

From the outside, Singapore looks like a great success story and in many ways it is, but there are legitimate questions being raised about what it aspires to be in this new era, Ms. Welsh added.

The Peoples Action Party promised, above all, stability and competence. Having led Singapore since even before independence in 1965, the party claims credit for transforming a resource-starved backwater on the tip of peninsular Southeast Asia into one of the most prosperous nations on the planet.

The coronavirus has ripped through crowded dormitories housing 200,000 foreign laborers, infecting tens of thousands, but Singapore has kept its death toll from the pandemic to just 26 people. Job losses and a looming recession have been blunted by a relief effort costing more than $70 billion, the Peoples Action Party said. While Singapore has no minimum wage and at least 10 percent of its households are considered poor by some estimates, extensive public housing for citizens ensures a kind of social safety net, according to the governing party.

For the 10 opposition parties that ran against the Peoples Action Party, the campaign was less an attempt to unseat a political behemoth than an effort to inject different viewpoints into the national conversation. The smallest mandate the governing party has ever received was a 60 percent victory in 2011, a shade worse than Fridays showing.

What we are trying to deny them is a blank check, and that is what I think this election is about, Jamus Lim, an economist and candidate for the Workers Party, said in an online debate during the campaign.

Mr. Lim won a seat in Parliament.

Singapores political strictures, along with social distancing measures, put even more roadblocks in the way of an opposition trying to gather momentum.

The campaign season was only nine days long. A fake news law that came into force last year was seen as having a chilling effect on online debate. Because of the coronavirus restrictions, electoral rallies were banned. Nor was electoral polling allowed.

The short campaign period was dominated by personal vitriol, particularly a spat between Mr. Lee and his younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, a former brigadier general and business executive who joined the opposition Progress Singapore Party last month.

Their father, Lee Kuan Yew, co-founded the Peoples Action Party and served as prime minister for more than three decades.

The senior Mr. Lee steered the ethnically Chinese-dominated city-state to independence in 1965, after it broke off from the new country of Malaysia. He embraced rules and order, championing Confucian virtues.

Today, most Singaporeans are still of Chinese descent, but about 40 percent of the countrys 5.7 million residents are foreign-born. Under racial harmony laws, people who stoke religious or racial enmity can spend up to three years in jail.

Last year, Heng Swee Keat, the deputy prime minister and presumptive successor to Mr. Lee, said that older Singaporeans were not ready for a leader who is not ethnically Chinese. Mr. Heng won his race on Friday by a relatively narrow margin.

On Sunday, Raeesah Khan, a candidate for the Workers Party, apologized for comments on social media that accused the police of treating ethnic minorities and migrant workers more harshly than whites or rich Chinese. Her commentary prompted the filing of two police reports, the Singapore police confirmed.

Systemic racism is a reality in Singapore, said Jolovan Wham, a social worker and activist who has campaigned for migrant workers rights.

Members of ethnic minority groups have feared that if they publicly challenge racism, they may be subjected to investigations by the police, said Mr. Wham, who spent a week in prison this year for criticizing Singapores courts.

Self-censorship has become the norm, he added. The lack of freedom of expression in Singapore has made it difficult to have authentic and honest debates about important issues affecting us.

Still, Ms. Khan won a seat in Parliament. At 26, she will be the youngest member of the legislature.

Young Singaporeans, some of whom have expressed their political views in boisterous online forums, are part of a global discourse about privilege and power, said Donald Low, a former high-ranking civil servant in Singapore who now teaches at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Some prominent members of the governing party have pushed back against the notion that they are beneficiaries of a system that unfairly rewards an ethnically Chinese elite.

To deny to young ethnic minorities that a well-to-do Chinese man isnt privileged, that there isnt prejudice in society, is incredibly patronizing, said Mr. Low.

At a news conference early Saturday, Mr. Lee acknowledged that the countrys youth were yearning for a diversity of political voices.

The younger voters also want to see more opposition presence in Parliament, he said.

Singapores prosperity depends on the sweat of its million or so low-wage migrant workers, who help keep the city neat, efficient and breathtakingly modern.

Unlike other expatriates who can eventually qualify for permanent residency, these migrants, who are mostly from South Asia and China, work in Singapore knowing they are temporary members of society.

Labor activists have warned over the years that their dormitories, relegated to the periphery of the island state, are petri dishes for disease, and it is perhaps no surprise that the vast majority of Singapores more than 45,600 coronavirus cases are among this population.

The government has said it will build more facilities for foreign laborers, but it has pushed back against criticism that it ignored migrants working conditions to their peril. Most migrants who have tested positive were asymptomatic or barely sick, health authorities have said.

The setting up of new dorms with more space is not a silver bullet, K. Shanmugam, Singapores law minister, said in an interview. Cruise ships, he noted, are luxurious, yet the coronavirus still spread quickly within their shared spaces.

But the public health crisis among Singapores migrant workers has catalyzed a debate about the fundamental structure of the nations hyper-globalized economy.

The real problem is our overreliance on low-cost foreign labor, said Mr. Low, a former director of fiscal policy at the Singaporean ministry of finance.

What this has revealed, he added, is not just systemic injustice for foreign workers, but also something that is a stain on Singapores veneer of technocratic modernity and superior governance.

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In Singapore, an Orderly Election and a (Somewhat) Surprising Result - The New York Times

Pandemic, Migration and the Education Crisis: How Capitalism Aggravated it – NewsClick

The painful pictures of migrants heading home must be haunting many people. The reality is that there is no correct estimation of how many workers migrate internally in India, given the precarity and the unavailability of jobs. According to a World Bank estimate, there are nearly 40 million internal migrants. The figure was echoed in another news report where the government also stated similar figures.

In its data on migrants, the 2011 Census put down 4,14,22,917 persons as migrants for reasons of work or employment. Of these massive approximations, states like Bihar have huge share. A report on Bihar in June said that Government officials estimate that so far, around 32 lakh people have come back to the state. The Uttar Pradesh government calculated that 21.69 lakh workers had returned to the state. One government agency estimated that there were 26 lakh stranded migrants, while the Centre told the Supreme Court that it had transported 97 lakh migrant workers.

In a nutshell, the Indian state has no inkling of the huge, unidentified and invisible workforce that runs the engine of its so-called high growth development model. It is also important to note that this indifference towards the vast mass of this work force is not sudden, but has evolved over a period of time and has been intrinsic to the model of development that Indian capitalism has embraced.

This vast mass of population, which walked thousands of miles and which has been forgotten due to public amnesia generated through war rhetoric and nationalism, has suffered on account of its childrens education as well. The pandemic has compounded their problems, not just because it has left millions without jobs and any bargaining power in the labour market, but also because their children will be deprived of one of the most fundamental requirements of life a good education.

Concerns have been raised about the migrations impact on education because it would lead to dropouts (more among girls than boys), further inaccessibility due to the digital divide and its psychological impact on children due to aggravated poverty, health and learning inaccessibilities. Additionally, in this abnormal situation (which the state and many intellectuals call the new normal), the elimination of a face-to-face interface between the teacher and student will fundamentally alter possibilities of producing a socially just and equitable imagination of society.

For instance, the socio-political, cultural and emotional dynamics that exist between the EWS and the non-EWS, sitting together in schools, would have unravelled. However, it will no longer be a possibility in this virtual classroom. The debate among students in a school inside and outside classrooms, the performative dimensions of students and teachers in the classroom or outside it or the possibilities of subversion through tiny acts of students during the process of schooling, will all be lost. Whatever argument is put forth by the online enthusiasts, dialogic dimensions are lost in apps or through online platforms of teaching and learning.

It is being repeatedly argued that migration has led to educational crisis. This is a fundamentally erroneous conclusion because it does not: firstly, tries to comprehend what creates this precarity in economy and secondly, how this precarity leads to this educational crisis. In other words, the educational crisis cannot be understood in a de-historicised manner that leads to looking at developments as moments and thereby miss its historico-material roots and the systemic nature.

It is the same system that fails to guarantee a decent livelihood, housing, health and social security due to its logic of unabashed and deceitful wealth accumulation, which also denies education to children. This crisis in education could have been reduced to a great extent (not completely) if public education backed by the state would have existed. Indias educational universe is in a mess with tens of different kinds of public schools and a hundred varieties of private schools. The state never took a keen interest in establishing public education at par with best existing schools in terms of infrastructure, pedagogical innovation, or providing the best possible working conditions to its teachers.

There is a general sense of elation among the corporate world and within the government about the online education system. While it opens up new possibilities of accumulation in an area which was not permitted earlier, it carries in its womb the possibility of the diminishing financial obligation of the state. In 2018, the online education market was worth Rs 39 billion, and the number is expected to be Rs 360.3 billion by 2024, as per a report in April 2020.

For an industry which was concerned about different kinds of recognitions and accreditations that might hamper its growth, a pandemic like the present is good news for them, because the state is gradually moving in the direction of online teaching. In any case, our state visionaries had pointed out way back in 2015 that schools, colleges and universities as currently constituted will be redundant in 2035. Instead, we will have institutions of learning that are virtual/meta/open in character.

In fact, unlike my concern above about a socially just and equitable education were tackled by it by saying that there would be no school dropouts. All children would have access to quality and affordable education, independent of social, economic, geographic, physical and even mental constraints.

The only answer to a crisis in education lies in its takeover by the state, which provides the best resources for its development. A child should not be worried about shifting from one place to another because a good school will be present in every nook and corner then. Developments models which do believe in a state-run education or health system are bound to falter in a situation of extreme crisis. However, the Capitalism of our times flourishes through state withdrawal from ensuring equal and just access to basic needs of people from schools (Niti Aayog suggesting PPP models), health centres (National Health Policy, 2017), universities and so on.

The crisis that we have encountered is a systemic crisis of capitalism which has manifested in the education sector. It is a result of its mal-intent to serve private capital at the cost of public welfare. The response of the Indian state and the state governments to avoid the repetition of such a crisis lies in how it answers the initial question of whether they would ensure that all government schools are financed at par with Navodaya Vidyalayas, to ensure equality in access to each and every child.

The writer is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at South Asian University. The views are personal.

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Pandemic, Migration and the Education Crisis: How Capitalism Aggravated it - NewsClick

UK: Information service for migrants affected by COVID-19 – InfoMigrants

The IOM is offering an information service for migrants who may be particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom. Be that because their jobs have disappeared, they can't pay their rent or they find themselves homeless or ill. The information service is currently available in eight languages with one more coming soon.

"We are here to support the many migrants who are facing increasedchallenges due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Info on supportin key areas, including housing employment and benefits are availablein many languages," reads a tweet on the IOM UK Twitter feed.

"Almost every aspect of life for people living in the UK haschanged," reads a press statement from the InternationalOrganization for Migration (IOM). And those changes affect the largemigrant and refugee community in the country too.

'Migrantsat greater risk in the crisis'

"Migrantslivelihoods are often at greater risk in this crisis for severalreasons," says Dipti Pardeshi, chief of IOM's UK office. Thatsbecause they are "more likely to be working in sectors mostaffected by the crisis, such as hospitality and retail." Many alsowork as carers or in the health sector or as bus drivers, taxidrivers or couriers, which might mean their jobs are still there butthey are even more at risk of catching COVID-19 than the generalpopulation because they could be more exposed to a greater viralload.

Often,the jobs that migrants do "are likely to be self-employed or intemporary sectors," which means that it's possible they won'thave access, or it may be difficult to access the furlough schemesthat have been provided by the UK government, which offer to pay upto 80% of an employees wages until at least the end of August until a time when their employer can take them back to work again.

Anadditional risk for migrants, says Pardeshi, is that they tend to beliving in rented accommodation, "which puts them at additional riskof eviction if they have lost their income due to the crisis."

Thereis lots of official information from the UK government about how youcan access the job retention schemes mentioned above. However, some migrants have "difficulty navigating thesupport systems that have been put in place,"Pardeshi says.Some may alsostruggle to access or understand the UK government information.That's why IOM have produced advice in seven different languages totry and overcome this barrier.

'Hardship and destitution'

Some migrants' visa stipulations may prevent them from accessing the social welfare available in the UK. This could mean that migrants are then at "greater risk of hardship and destitution." IOM provides a website and freephone service on the following five subjects: "Health, work, benefits, visas and immigration, housing and homelessness."

On theIOM siteyou can find a "comprehensive overview" listingwhich government help schemes are available to migrants.

The websiteis availabe in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Albanian,Romanian, Vietnamese and Arabic. Polish is about to be added. Thefreephone telephone service is available in any language (0800 464 3380).

Employment and COVID-19

On the topic of employment, the website provides links for migrants if they are not ableto work, whether they are an employee or self-employed. It also liststhe rights you are entitled to if you are worried about workingduring the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thereis also a section for those who may be working without papers in theUK. In that situation, the IOM writes, it can be difficult to accessyour rights, if you essentially have no official right to work.However, there are still some things you can do, like visit aCitizens Advice Bureau or talk to Migrants Rights Charities like the Migrants' Rights Network.

Healthand COVID-19

Thereis lots of information on recognizing the symptoms of COVID-19 andgetting tested, as well as a list of what those who dont havepapers can do if they fear they may have contracted the virus.

Thewebsite reassures migrants without papers that free NHS (NationalHealth Service) treatment is available to everyone and that noimmigration checks will be carried out and that treatment and testingfor COVID-19 would be free. However, if you were to have a negativetest result but still needed treatment for another unrelated illnessthen you would be charged for that, unless it was another exemptcondition like Turburculosis (TB).

Thewebsite advises if you are worried about your eligibility fortreatment you should check on the Doctors of the World websiteto see how they might be able to help.

Accommodationand COVID-19

Interms of housing and homelessness, IOM advises that there might behelp available to you if you are struggling to pay your rent becauseyour working hours have been reduced due to the restrictions. It saysthat as of March 29 all landlords in the UK were instructed not toevict anyone for five months. In Scotland this lasts for six months.That means that even if you receive an eviction notice from yourlandlord during this period, you have a legal right to stay in yourhome.

If youdo become homeless during this period, for whatever reason, or arealready living on the streets you should turn to your localauthority. All local authorities across the UK "have beeninstructed to find suitable accommodation for street homeless duringthe pandemic."

However,they say as soon as the pandemic is over, you will likely be asked toleave whatever emergency accommodation was provided.

Thereare various phone numbers and websites listed in this sectionincluding to an organization called Street Link for those findingthemselves homeless in England. Shelter Cymru helps those homeless inWales and the Simon Community Scotland will help those in Scotland.

Project17 also helps migrant families who may find themselves homelessduring this time.

Youcan access the free telephone service by dialing this number fromwithin the UK: 0800 464 3380

You can access the website via this link: https://covid19uk.iom.int/

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UK: Information service for migrants affected by COVID-19 - InfoMigrants

Rakul Preet Singh: This crisis has taught us that productivity comes from shortage of resources – Hindustan Times

Rakul Preet Singh:This crisis has taught us that productivity comes from shortage of resources - bollywood - Hindustan Times "; forYoudata += ""; forYoudata += ""; forYoudata += ""; count++; if (i === 7) { return false; } }); forYouApiResponse=forYoudata; $(forutxt).html('Recommended for you'); $(foruContent).html(forYoudata); } } }); } else if(forYouApiResponse!=''){ $(forutxt).html('Recommended for you'); $(foruContent).html(forYouApiResponse); } } function getUserData(){ $.ajax({ url:"https://www.hindustantimes.com/newsletter/get-active-subscription?usertoken="+user_token, type:"GET", dataType:"json", success: function(res){ if(res.length>0) { $("[id^=loggedin]").each(function(){ $(this).hide(); }); } } }); } function postUserData(payLoad, elm){ var msgelm=$(elm).parents(".subscribe-update").nextAll("#thankumsg"); $.ajax({ url:"https://www.hindustantimes.com/newsletter/subscribe", type:"POST", data:payLoad, contentType: "application/json", dataType: "json", success: function(res){ if(res.success===true){ $(msgelm).show(); 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Rakul Preet Singh: This crisis has taught us that productivity comes from shortage of resources - Hindustan Times

EU focuses on migration and sea rescue in the Mediterranean across several official meetings – InfoMigrants

Migration in the Mediterranean became a focus as Germany took up the rotating presidency of the EU Council in July and the EUs foreign minister, Josep Borrell, visited Malta this week.

Just a week after Germany took up the rotating EU Council presidency, EU interior ministers held an online conference to discuss security and migration in theMediterranean. At the same time, the EUCommissions Vice President and High Representative for ForeignAffairs and Security Josep Borrell visited Malta, one of the first "in-person" vitis since the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Borrell said that the EU is facing severalchallenges in our southern neighborhood and I was glad to discussthem today in Malta" with Maltese ministers; including the foreignminister, the president and the prime minister.

In a press statement, Borrellacknowledged that Malta had been "facing huge pressure" regardingmigration and that the EU fully shared Maltas determination toaddress irregular migration in a comprehensive way.

Increasedcapacity for Libyan coastguard?

Borrellsaid that the starting point for this "comprehensive" policywould be to address the crisis in Libya and support the Libyanauthorities. He said that Libya was the "largest beneficiary inNorth Africa of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa." Much ofthat money has gone to strengthening the Libyan coastguard. Borrellsaid that this work needed to continue, "in order to strengthentheir capacity of intervention to dismantle trafficking networks andconduct rescue operations in their area of responsibility."

At themoment, Borrell said, the work to dismantle these networks was beingdone mainly through the EU naval and air operation Irini and the EUBorder Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM). He added that Maltawanted to increase the capacities of the Libyan coastguard too.

'Shameful' handling of migration by EU, Seehofer

While Borrell was talking to the Maltese government, EU interior ministers were taking part in a two-day online conference todiscuss security and migration. Now that Germany has taken over therotating presidency for the next six months, this meeting was led by the German interior minister, Horst Seehofer.

Seehofer called on his European counterparts to agree on a better and fairer solution for the distribution of migrants rescued at sea. He said it was "shameful" that the EU has still not found a solution five years after the so-called migration crisis.

"Each boat requires painstaking efforts to achieve a distribution (of migrants) among member states," said Seehofer. "And each time, only a small number (of the member states) is ready to do so". He added that the EU cannot leave Italy, Malta, Greece or Spain alone to deal with this issue. "This is a situation that is not worthy of the EU," he said.

Seehofer called for Europe to take a "pragmatic" approach to "those who arrive at the external borders." He once again reiterated the need for "as many member states as possible" taking part in sharing the numbers of migrants who arrive and returning those who have no right to claim protection in the EU.

"Europeis a community of values. Respecting human dignity and human rightsis the most important thing, and preventing deaths in theMediterranean is our shared goal," said Seehofer in a pressstatement at the end of the conference.Migrants on cargo ship taken in by Malta

During the two day meeting it was announced that a group of 50 migrants who were rescued near Lampedusa by an animal cargo vesselhad been allowed on shore in Maltaafter repeated pleas from the ships captain and pro-migrant groups like Alarm Phone and Sea Watch.

Theship had been refused entry in Lampedusa and Malta. Malta, whosesearch and rescue zone the migrants were in when they were rescued,had said that they couldnt dock until other EU countries agreed toan automatic sharing out of migrants who arrive on the island nation.

'Bringing new momentum to the topic of migration'

Aheadof the conference, Seehofer already announced that "bringing newmomentum to the topic of migration," was one of the German EUpresidencys stated aims.

He said he found his counterparts around Europe "very willing tocontinue our focused discussions," and promised "conferences willbe held soon in Europe to agree on concrete steps." A conference in Italy on July 13 was announced where delegates would discuss "closercooperation with North African countries," to fight human smugglingand instigate an effective return policy.

Malta: Agreement for an automatic mechanism

After Borrell's visit, the Maltese government announced that it had reached an agreement with a number of European countries to relocate more than 280 migrants currently in Malta.

Malta has repeatedly asked for this mechanism to becomeautomatic, but so far, despite numerous agreements, the sharing out of new arrivals has been done on an ad-hoc and case-by-case basis.

Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela called EU policy in this area a "failure" as Borrell stood beside him, reported dpa. He said they had received more help from Libya in this period than the EU.According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, Malta received 1,200 migrants in the first four months of 2020. "Hundreds more have disembarked since then," wrote dpa.

Speaking to journalists, Borrell agreed that an automatic mechanismwas what was needed to be able to save people at sea and quicklydisembark them in Malta before sharing them across the EU. He said "solidarity" was needed on this point and that the EU wasworking on that. However, he also noted that "I cannot tell whenand even I cannot tell if the Member States will agree because therole of the Commission is to propose. The Commission proposes and theCouncil and the Parliament decide."

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EU focuses on migration and sea rescue in the Mediterranean across several official meetings - InfoMigrants

Will agriculture help twice-returned Saurashtra migrants tide over COVID-19 crisis? – Down To Earth Magazine

Several Saurashtra migrants who had returned to work in Surat in May-end said they have fallen back on land resources for agriculture

The Saurashtra region in western Gujarat has been witnessing a second wave of reverse migration amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Labourers employed in the diamond industry in Surat had first migrated back to their villages in Saurashtra when the Union government had first announced nationwide lockdown in March.

They, however, came back to Surat when the lockdown was lifted in May-end. Now, they are once again headed to their villages in the face of spiralling COVID-19 cases in Surat that has led to the closure of several industrial units.

Several migrants said they have fallen back on land resources for agriculture and are determined not to go back till at least Diwali. The good monsoon rainfall has been the silver lining, and most of them are expecting a good groundnut and cotton crop.

Sources on the ground said thousands of workers employed in the diamond sector went back home, again, after units started closing down fearing a surge in COVID-19 cases. Those who own land along with their other family members have taken to tilling while the others have taken to working as agriculture labour since a good rainfall has led to an increase in demand for agriculture this season.

The diamond units closed again and we were left with no choice. They only operated for a week or two after the lockdown was lifted? Why should we pay rents then? It is better to come back to our village and work on the family land, Rajeshbhai Thummar, a labourer from Amreli district, told DTE.

Another labourer Kamleshbhai Patel, who returned to Abrahmpura village in Savarkundla from Surats Varaccha, said, We will go back only after Diwali if things look promising. There are thousands like me who have come back home. We would rather spend time with our families than sitting in expensive hotels.

He added that good rains have assured them of subsistence.

Econmist Hemant Shah, who has been keeping an eye on reverse migration since the first lockdown, explained, The diamond industry is down by at least 60 per cent in terms of demand. It has been witnessing a slowdown for the last two years and does not hold much promise for its workforce.

He added that about 20 per cent of the workforce employed in polishing and finishing had come back to work when the unlockdown was announced, but were compelled to return during the second wave.

He expressed optimism over agricultural returns following a good rainfall.

Even if the groundnut crop is good, will it translate into farmers getting good money? The recent amendments in the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act, with claims that it is farmer-oriented and a tool for development, will not yield results. This is because we all know how companies operate in a cartel with a monopolistic outlook.

Pointing to the cotton produce, he said farmers had to deal with pricing issues last year as well.

He said the government needs to come out with positive interventions and move towards establishing good storage facilities in co-operative sector so that the farmers can hold back their produce till they get proper remuneration.

The government made a budgetary provision of Rs 300 crore for setting up storage facilities, which is just Rs 10,000 for 30,000 farmers. It amounts to nothing. Does it serve the purpose for the over five million farmers in the state, he added.

Suresh Samani, an expert on agricultural economics in Saurashtra, had a different take on the issue. We need to understand the socio-economic dynamics with regards to people from rural Saurashtra who go to work in the diamond industry in Surat. They cannot be equated with migrants from other states who come in search of livelihood to Gujarat.

He added that a majority of workers from Saurashtra belong to the Patel community, which is into farming and owns a large chunk of land. It is often one or two members from a joint family who move to the diamond industry since the remuneration from farming is not ideal and the jobs in the diamond cutting, polishing and finishing sectors pay well.

Then there is also the attraction of a better standard of living in an urban centre, Samani said.

He explained that it is primary the fear of the virus that has driven labourers back to their homes: Since they own land and their roots are strong, they are confident of subsistence. The government interventions have also led to getting reasonable returns for both cotton and groundnut in the last few years, although the cotton prices are nowhere near the Rs 1,600 per bale mark that was there a few years ago.

A good rainfall in these areas may point to an increase in demand for agricultural labour that normally comes from Panchmahals and the adjoining state of Madhya Pradesh. But since the labour is not expected from these places this season, the vacuum will be filled by the returnees from the diamond sector, experts said.

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Will agriculture help twice-returned Saurashtra migrants tide over COVID-19 crisis? - Down To Earth Magazine

Let them eat baked beans – The Shift News

The last few months have been tough and the uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has been tortuous. I am not quite sure if we are through the worst of it yet but for the moment we have a reprieve.

Like many families we lost a significant proportion of our income during these past months and, for the duration, our spending has been limited to the bare essentials. This took me back to when our children were young and we used to have Baked Bean Thursday. The very phrase brings a smile to my face.

I used to set myself a budget to spend on food each week, something like 40. I would plan our weekly menu based on seven core foods, Monday was beef mince, Tuesday was sausages, Wednesday was tinned tuna and Thursday was Baked Beans, you get the gist.

It is incredible the variety of dishes you can make with a couple of tins of Baked Beans, which meant that Thursdays offering was always keenly anticipated. I seem to remember that the winner was Baked Bean curry, closely followed by Baked Bean meatballs, but perhaps they were just humouring me. Anyway, they were fed and we got through some tough times with a smile on our faces and a few good stories.

We were fortunate that during this period of austerity we never had to rely on food banks, somehow we muddled through until the good times came.

The parcels distributed by the Foodbank Lifeline Foundation cost 25 for a family parcel which is intended to feed a family of four people for a week, but for me, the humiliation of having to ask a charity for help to feed your family is the greatest cost of all.

The government announced last week that it had racked up a bill of 1.7 million to host 425 migrants on boats during the COVID-19 pandemic; thats 4,000 spent on each individual. Not that thats a bad thing, but some context is necessary.

Please dont think that the boats used in this operation were, for one moment, fit for purpose and dont be fooled into assuming that each guest had an ensuite cabin with fresh sheets and clean towels, which is the very least I would expect on a 4,000 cruise.

The boats used were the Captain Morgan tourist day boats, the same red ones we see each year chugging around Grand Harbour or on their daily excursions to Comino. Only, on this occasion, they were struggling to chug around in circles some 13 nautical miles off the Maltese coastline for days upon end it honestly beggars belief.

Captain Morgan is part of the Zammit Tabona group. Michael Zammit Tabona happened to be Maltas disgraced former ambassador to Finland remember that Facebook post which compared Chancellor Angela Merkel to Hitler? He is also, completely coincidentally, of course, one of the Labour Partys large donors.

So while we were all at home working out how many tins of Baked Beans we could buy with the tatters of our monthly income, Zammit Tabona was reinventing his business model and selling it to the Labour government as a solution to the migrant issue simultaneously making a killing out of his redundant boats since the season was closed.

The boats were then very swiftly recommissioned as soon as there was the sniff of a tourist, so not quite the humanitarian. There is the distinct whiff of corruption and exploitation about this particularly pointless and inhuman exercise.

On a social level, during this same period, the number of people who applied to food banks for relief grew exponentially, with The Malta Trust Foundation feeling compelled to launch its own Food Aid Project in order to deal with the impending crisis that was bypassing the government.

Imagine what the food banks could have done with 1.7 million they could have bought 68,000 parcels and fed 1,250 families for a year and still have change.

The same money could have provided each of the 425 passengers on those boats with a food parcel every week for three years 272,000 meals. Meanwhile, asylum seekers are sleeping at the entrance to the capital city because theyve been kicked out of the open centres. Theres no Labour Party donor who can make money off that.

Whatever your views are on the migrant crisis and the governments attempts to bulldoze the EU (posturing, more than anything else), it can only be surmised from their actions and eagerness to provide Captain Morgan with some business that this was a greater priority to them than the welfare and humiliation of its vulnerable citizens.

Its not only those queuing at food banks who should be peeved at the ease with which this government has frittered away 1.7 million. There is a massive demand for social housing in Malta the price of property, the cost of renting and the opportunity to have your own home is out of reach for many working people.

The so-called Workers Party has promised social housing units in the Budget year after year, since Joseph Muscat had claimed it was a top priority in 2013. But only 10 units were allocated we dont even know if they were actually built. But the money was there all the time just not for social housing.

Maybe Robert Abelas Cabinet would benefit from having a Baked Bean Thursday just to give them a little soupcon of what life is like living on charity. I am assured that Baked Beans are a good match with fine vintage wine but that would perhaps detract from the humility of the meal.

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Let them eat baked beans - The Shift News

Images of Hunger and Humiliation: The Memory against Forgetting – The Citizen

The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting. Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

The images of migrant workers and their plight have receded from our screens; perhaps most of them have already returned to their villages.

Images are transient in the digital world, replaced quickly by other sets of images begging for attention. The images that haunted us were of working families who walked hundreds of kilometres during the sudden nationwide lockdown, haunted by starvation, their belongings carried on their heads, their children walking barefoot or in broken flipflops, the old and sick carried on shoulders.

These images told of the hunger and humiliation they suffered on their long journey, and of the many who died cruel deaths before reaching home. The images are already beginning to be history in public memory.

If the post-pandemic, post-Covid world is to be restructured as inclusive and just, as equitable and empathetic, then the experiences of migrant workers must be saved from receding into history, for the lockdown was not only a tragic experience, it also exposed the nature of the urban economy that thrives on exploiting the labour of informalised workers.

How can the disembodied poor be saved from becoming history? By remembering.

By re-membering who the dispossessed people are, remembering how our lockdown drove them to such despair, remembering what they encountered on their long journey home, and the political and social failures to respond to the crisis, we may be able to build the foundation for a better, and kinder, and equitable, and inclusive, and just world.

The urban informalised economy in India is predominantly worked by an estimated 100 million migrant labourers from rural areas, who work in construction, manufacturing, hospitality, trade, services and sundry other jobs that city-dwellers require.

Without a work contract, health insurance, or any financial, public, or social security to buffer them through a crisis, migrant workers in the informalised sectors of the economy are prone to vulnerability and destitution, as their exodus in the wake of the lockdown showed.

The daily-wage economy is even more precarious within the informalised economy and daily-wage earners are more vulnerable. It is estimated that around 40% of Indian workers earn a daily wage, of as little as 400 or 500 rupees, and women daily wagers earn even less.

The vast majority of migrant workers who come to the cities to earn an income are either farmers with small or marginal landholds, or landless labourers.

What drove millions of workers to undertake the long and arduous journey on foot? The fear of imminent starvation. The basic need for bare survival overtook their fear of the deadly virus. They were placed in a situation where death from lack of food became a more immediate possibility than death from the disease. And if they were to die in any case, as many said, they chose to risk their lives and reach home somehow.

People felt orphaned and abandoned by their employers and governments. A feeling of rejection, non-belonging, hopelessness, betrayal, and sheer despair is palpable when we hear their voices on the videos recorded by journalists.

The pictures are equally haunting: public authorities spraying toxic chemical disinfectants to sanitise these workers; a child asleep on a suitcase while the mother drags it; a child trying to wake his dead mother on a railway platform; scattered rotis on a railway track where a train crushed 16 workers to death; people walking in the dead of night to avoid the scorching sun; people packed inside a cargo carrier.

There are many such images we need to search and remember.

There was a total political failure in responding to the migrant workers crisis. That no one thought about the millions of workers in the cities who would be jobless and stranded points to the absence of the majority of Indians from political decision-making.

Some of them left the cities as soon as the lockdown was declared; others waited for their employers and the government to give them some assurance and help, failing which they set out for their villages.

Meanwhile, the union government was telling the apex court that there were no migrant workers on the roads, even as thousands of them were making the hazardous journey on national highways.

Meanwhile, three state governments - Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh - proposed to change labour laws to make them more amenable to employers.

Uttar Pradesh proposed to suspend for three years the legal protections dealing with wages, working hours, and health and safety measures among others that safeguard the rights of workers, thus reducing the already precarious informalised wage-work to modern slavery.

After 47 days of this, when special trains were organised by the railways to take the migrant workers home, the hassle and expense of booking tickets itself created panic among people, and many had to take loans or sell their belongings to get a ticket home.

The trains went on detours, taking a much longer time to reach their destinations, further exhausting an already weary and hungry people.

It is alleged that the government of Karnataka even cancelled the special trains to keep workers captive for construction industrialists.

Not only did the union and state governments not put any pressure on these industrialists to pay their workers during the lockdown, their proposals to change the labour laws and attempts to keep workers captive revealed a State that was ready to sacrifice the poor for keeping the industries of the rich running.

The police, instead of facilitating the distressed workers, gladly assumed even more authority. Caning ordinary people, making them crawl as punishment, forcing them to travel in vehicles that were carrying dead bodies - there were numerous such stories of police action. The police saw the workers as a menace and dehumanised them.

Along with the political failure, our society failed colossally to respond to this crisis. From tacit support to legitimise government inaction or obduracy, to deflecting the crisis, to complete silence as if this were not an issue that matters, the complicity of the propertied classes was all too apparent.

Our societys indifference, apathy, and hostility were staggering. This cannot be shrugged off only as a lack of moral conscience. It exposed our allegiance to the State and to the neoliberal economy, the two forces responsible for the crisis.

The same people would have responded to a crisis caused by flood or cyclone, because they see these as natures fury but the beneficiaries of a lopsided economic growth propelled by liberalised big business supported by the State chose to turn their eyes away as the edifice on which our riches are based came crumbling down.

This social failure was further exposed by our indulgence in aestheticising, romanticising and glamorising migrant workers.

A picture of a 15 year old girl who cycled 1,200 kilometres from Gurugram to Bihar, carrying her injured father on the pillion, was seen as beautiful. People who undertook long and arduous journeys on foot were saluted and appreciation was showered on them. Their reaching home became a feel-good sight.

It says a lot about people, about a society, that sees aesthetics, romance and glamour in sorrow, cruelty, hunger, and death. It was sheer desperation and willpower that gave these workers the agency, but to appreciate that agency without acknowledging the contexts and reasons is to hide, or worse, approve what led to the crisis.

Millions of informalised workers constituting the workforce in urban economy remain invisible to city-dwellers. The crisis that unfolded during the lockdown exposed an exploitative economy that survives on the cheapened labour of people who leave their villages and a starved agrarian economy to come to the cities in search of work.

If we are to change the structure of exploitation and inequality, the invisibility of migrant workers must be made visible. They did become visible for a short while. We must not push them back into invisibility again.

the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations. James Baldwin, Unnameable Objects, Unspeakable Crimes

Ranjita Mohanty is a Delhi based sociologist

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Images of Hunger and Humiliation: The Memory against Forgetting - The Citizen

The Political Fix: Teflon Modis unabating popularity and 7 more takeaways from the middle of 2020 – Scroll.in

Welcome to the Political Fix by Rohan Venkataramakrishnan, a newsletter on Indian politics and policy. To get it in your inbox, sign up here.

If you missed the Friday Links edition, which covered the TikTok ban and brought you a Q&A with Shankkar Aiyar, find it here.

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India begins 2020 in turmoil.

Thats how we started the first Political Fix of this year, offering forecasts from Scroll.ins reporting team and one from me on what readers could expect in 2020 and, indeed, the forthcoming decade in India.

Spoiler alert: The words global pandemic do not turn up in those articles.

This week, as we pass the halfway mark of the year, the mostly unforeseen coronavirus crisis is all-encompassing, dominating every other development.

Five months after it was officially declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the Covid-19 pandemic and its fallout remain wildly unpredictable, with no clarity on how long it will disrupt what we considered normal life.

But even while the full impact of the Covid crisis on politics, on policy, on the economy and on all of our lives cannot yet be ascertained, we can still put down some notes on how the first half of 2020 went.

Key to what follows is the truism that crises like these do not upend the preexisting order, they only accelerate trends like Modis continued popularity, Indias economic struggles, a lacklustre Opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Partys divisive politics. There is, however, one major exception to that too.

Here is what we make of how 2020 has played out so far:

It has been year full of the sort of missteps that might have sunk another government: the economy was dramatically slowing because of economic mismanagement before Covid-19 hit; February saw the worst riots in Delhi in more than 35 years; the governments failure to plan for migrant workers as it went into lockdown resulted in a massive humanitarian disaster and China has managed to change the status quo on the disputed border, leading to the first deaths of Indian soldiers at the Line of Actual Control in more than four decades.

Despite all this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reigns supreme.

It helps that he was re-elected with a massive mandate in 2019, meaning the coronavirus crisis is not an immediate electoral threat. But even if it were, Modi would have been the front-runner. Polls, though rarely reliable, show that the prime minister remains extremely popular, albeit with some ebbing of support from younger Indians. Some of the sustained popularity may be the rally-around-the-flag effect, which sees citizens supporting leaders in a time of crisis. Still, despite the year he has had, few believe Modis political preeminence faces any kind of threat.

In spite of the failure of Indias Covid-19 lockdown to break the transmission of the virus, as was the initial aim, and even though the country this week overtook Russia to record the third-highest number of global cases, there is still a sense that Modi has done better than expected. This is possibly because, unlike the leadership of the two countries above India on the list, Brazil and the United States, Modi never denied the dangers of the virus.

Yet Indias graph still points resolutely upwards, and the pandemic is shifting in intensity towards the east, where health infrastructure is minimal. Horror stories keep turning up from big cities and small towns, and there is no clarity on when India will peak and whether the country has done enough to beef up its systems for that eventuality.

As a consequence, as we enter the second half of the year, we simply do not have good visibility into how this crisis will play out, either from a public health perspective or a political one.

Even before the global pandemic hit, the Indian economy was gasping for air. Estimates for GDP growth in Financial Year 2019-2020 fell from 7% to 5% and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in February triggered an escape clause allowing the government to borrow more than it was otherwise legally permitted. Most worryingly, the government did not seem to have a clear sense of why the numbers were so bad. Even as most commentators pointed to structural problems, Modi supporters insisting it was a cycle that wold turn.

Now India will certainly see a major contraction, by at least 4.5%, in Financial Year 2020-21. Even a quick bounce-back next year will not be enough to put it back on its earlier trajectory, never mind fulfilling the aim of becoming a $5 trillion economy.

The Covid-19 package announced by Modi relied almost entirely on liquidity measures with very little stimulus spending, which is not expected to address the widespread distress, especially as New Delhi has since embarked on an anti-Chinese protectionist effort.

There is talk now of higher fiscal spending later in the year, but the government continues to struggle restart economic activity and to pull in revenue. There is now even less trust that those in charge of the economy have a good handle on what needs to be done to turn the ship around.

Can India afford to deal with China as an adversary? The last few issues of our newsletter have considered this question, following the first fatal conflict between the armies of India and China in more than 40 years. It is one we will undoubtedly return to.

Stronger anti-China sentiment in Delhi may bring with it a closer alliance with the United States, but it will also likely bring hardship to many Indian business owners who had grown used to cheap Chinese goods.

Even as Modi will have to figure out how to deal with the situation on the Line of Actual Control, with or without dramatic visits to Leh, weaning India off of Chinese manufacturing, investment or indeed, entertainment apps may prove to be equally as hard.

Political scientist Suhas Palshikar told us in early May that Modi will get to play saviour while letting the difficult decisions (and the brickbats) go to the states. And indeed, from a political angle it looks likely that a number of chief ministers will face more direct accountability than citizens appear to expect from the prime minister.

Will Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray be seen as the one who was overwhelmed or the one who manage to wrest back control? What does Amit Shahs takeover of Delhis Covid-19 battle mean for Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal? Will Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa still be seen as a saviour now that cases in his state are steadily rising? Has crisis control revived the fortunes of Assams health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma?

The 2015 Bihar election was a massive political event, and would eventually prove that an anti-Modi alliance could win if conditions were favourable. Bihar polls are due again this year, yet despite potentially bigger questions to put to the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies, the elections are already being declared a washout.

The Congress has tried to press Modi, on the Covid-19 crisis, on the migrant worker policy mess, on fuel prices and on China, but seems to have found few takers. Other parties have struggled to maintain a coherent line, not least because of Modis massive dominance of the national security question. Besides, many states will need Central support to just pay their basic commitments, never mind additional expenditure.

As as a result, even if there are enough issues on the table for another party with which to challenge the BJP, the chances of a genuine, national contender continue to remain minimal.

We started this year amidst a national protest movement against the governments Citizenship Act amendments that many see as religiously discriminatory. This was in fact the issue we thought might dominate the first half of the year. For the moment, however, the CAA and its promised follow-up, the National Register of Citizens, have been put on hold.

This, however, hasnt stopped the Centre and the BJP from continuing its efforts to vilify Muslims and divide Indian society on religious lines in pursuit of a pan-Hindu votebank. Early on, the discovery of an Islamic group had flouted guidelines and spread the virus led to a wave of Islamophobic messages amplified by the party and its social media army.

And under the cover of lockdown, the authorities have continued to file cases and jail many of those who have criticised this government. Even if the citizenship initiative takes some time to return to national prominence, there is no doubt that the Centre is continuing to pursue its polarising agenda.

Where Covid-19 may have accelerated pre-existing trends in many cases, the migrant crisis is the exception. It is hard to imagine a scenario that causes millions of Indians to move en masse from urban areas where they migrate seasonally for work to rural areas that they call home.

This huge reverse migration is expected to slowly unwind, as workers return to the parts of the country that have more industrial activity. But the patchy nature of Indias post-lockdown re-opening, efforts by states to employ at least some of the workers at home and a continued awareness that Covid-19 remains a threat at large, mean that not everyone will head back to the cities right away.

The effects of this are potentially far-reaching, from labour shortages and an upending of Modinomics because of a reliance on the rural economy (which we wrote about last week) to a spurt in property disputes and fears of many falling back into poverty.

If India began 2020 in turmoil, it marks the halfway point with despair at a virus that continues to spread, an economy that has fallen off a cliff, a conflict with China that threatens to get worse and a migrant crisis with impacts that cannot be predicted.

Will these be the issues we are discussing at the end of the year? Will some of those that came up at the start of the year return to prominence? Or does 2020 have even more surprises in store?

Tell us what you think. Write to rohan@scroll.in with what has been your takeaway from the first half of 2020 or if you have a suggestion for who we should featuring on our Friday Q&As. Thanks for reading.

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The Political Fix: Teflon Modis unabating popularity and 7 more takeaways from the middle of 2020 - Scroll.in

Migration governance during the pandemic: Marginalising the already marginalised? – India Education Diary

Parul Srivastava

The writer is a researcher, pursuing her PhD from the Department of History, University of Hyderabad, India. She can be reached at [emailprotected] or via Twitter on @paroollll

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused turmoil all across the globe. Nearly every country is dealing with a never-seen-before situation, at least since the Spanish Flu of 1918 which resulted in the death of approximately 50 million people worldwide. Today, USA has the largest number of COVID positive cases in the world, followed by Brazil and India. We have witnessed the migrant crisis in India since the onset of lockdown and how it got from bad to worse and therefore, in such a situation, it becomes imperative to ponder over global and regional migration while focusing on the pandemic induced migrations and the vulnerable situation that the migrants are left in.

Global Research Forum on Diaspora and Transnationalism (GRFDT) along with two important organisations namely Migrant Forum Asia (MFA), and Cross Regional Center for Refugees and Migrants (CCRM) organized a rather beneficial and tremendously insightful discussion on Global and Regional Migration Governance During COVID-19 Pandemic on July 7th 2020. This session was moderated by Shabari Nair, a Labour Migration Specialistfor South Asia, based in the International Labour Organization in New Delhi. This 11th GRFDT virtual panel was attended by policy makers, practitioners and government officials from various numerous countries.

Nicola Piper, Director of Sydney Asia Pacific Migration Centre in Australia spoke about the global level of governance of labour migrations. Although we have come a long way in terms of understanding of what migration entails, in political and institutional terms we still have a dysfunction at global migration systems and this has become more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. Talking about the three aspects of the global migration governance, she spoke about the what/how/by whom. Migration management trumps over the rights based approach to migration and this is reflected in the priority given to other types of migrations as opposed to what happens at the workplace. She stressed on the gaps that arises between rights on paper and rights in practice and this is highly relevant in the current pandemic wherein there are many migrants, undocumented workers whore working on contract/ temporarily in essential services and key sectors of the economy but they still dont have residential rights, have little or no access to social security. This pandemic has exposed the fundamental flaws which exist in many bilateral agreements and memorandum of understanding (MoU).

Shahidul Haque, former Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh broadly talked about how this pandemic is reshaping migration and where is it making an impact: remittance, labour flow, return and human rights. He emphasised that inter- State relations will change, international cooperation will change an hence, migration will change which will result in a change of world order. He talked about four new factors that will unfold (which he has termed as New Migration order) namely new economic landscape, development paradigm, power shift and environmental factors. These four forces were functioning but the pandemic has exposed some weaknesses and accelerated few changes in the world of migration and mobility.

This is the first time that the world is facing a migration crisis without the migrants being major stakeholders because this migration crisis is the result of a pandemic. Another issue that this pandemic has created is the problem of return which has resulted due to the fact that around 400 million migrant workers have lost their jobs and hence, they will have to return to their home countries. Interestingly, he talked about the trapped population which has lost its jobs but is unable to return to their native countries and are therefore on the streets in a foreign country.

Pietro Mona, Ambassador for Development, Forced Displacement and Migration (Government of Switzerland) believes that COVID has highlighted the vulnerabilities as well as the weaknesses of the current system at local, national and global levels. This pandemic which is now turning into a micro- economic crisis at the global level has had a great impact on the field of migrations. For a lot of challenges that we are seeing today, there are possible solutions or at least an ideas on how to approach them. The real question of the hour is do we have the political will, the instruments, the actors that can implement what has been discussed so far.

There is also a dire need to focus on the issue of migration is connected with other issues like gender, education, to name a few and find inclusive solutions. One very crucial point that Pietro Mona made was that proposing us and them creates barriers and we need to understand that migrants are very much a part of our society. Horizontal adaptation/ expanding the government structure horizontally which means that all partners should be included at the same table and vertical expansion is also of equal importance which involves the issues of migration with other overarching relevant issues that are interconnected.

William Gois from the Migrant Forum in Asia from Philippines talked about how the transmission isnt as smooth and that there is a fault line between regional and global. This disconnect is also present between capitals and other places which isnt just a bureaucratic process but also a politically affected process. However, migration for politicians isnt a vote worthy topic which is why they wouldnt pick it up from a human right perspective as it wont be received well by the majority.

The current discourse on migration has become extremely polarised, India being a classic example of it which involves prioritising oneself and othering the other. The pandemic has put migrant workers in an extremely difficult position. Otherwise hailed as heroes, theyre now unable to return back to their communities due to fear of community spread (in case they are carriers of the COVID-19 virus). A new political will has to be generated which would ultimately bring people out of situations of crisis such as the ongoing pandemic. Migrants live within the States jurisdiction and hence it is the States responsibility to protect every human being living in its jurisdiction without any discrimination.

Roula Hamati, from the Cross Regional Center for Refuges and Migrant in Lebanon questioned as to how do global frameworks translate at the national and regional level. There are a number of obstacles when we talk about translating them at the ground level and she spoke about it in the Arab context as to how countries that receive refugees have not really ratified the refugee convention.

Charles Obila from IGAD, a membership of 8 of 55 States of Africa. Migration is a means to survival as one cannot live without the options of migrating. For certain African countries, Migration is very dynamic in nature as they cannot really differentiate between refugees and migrants and they have mixed migrations where people belonging to various categories move together, using similar means. This is mostly because theyre all looking for similar things- livelihood and employment opportunities and hence, migration is happening towards the gulf countries, European union as well as Southern African countries. Obila mentioned quite interestingly that the most resilient migrants and refugees are in the urban areas as they are the ones who are able to find employment with limited support and are able to support/ provide for their families.

Migrant returns and deportations was happening from Southern African countries and the Gulf countries and this led to a growth of discussions on how to co-ordinate better and also deal with stranded migrants whore out of employments due to this pandemic. This has further led to a reverse flow of migration where people are looking forward to moving back to rural areas from urban spaces. The political leadership of IGAD countries came together and took a decision of developing regional health response strategy and one unique thing that was specifically mentioned was the integration of vulnerable population including the migrants and the refugees in the health responses. There is a need of multilateralism or international cooperation especially in the recovery and post recovery stages.

Professor Andrew Geddes, Director of Migration Policy Centre in Italy spoke about the governance in Europe buy concentrating on four things, namely crisis, policy, politics and the future. Based on previous crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic would not lead to major changes in the EU and European migration and asylum crisis. Attitudes towards migration are becoming more favourable as opposed to how such issues have been politicized and presented.

The regional negotiations are very important for the regions so we should have a SAARC negotiation with the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries where we are sending our people to. It becomes essential for the sending countries, civil society groups, trade unions, intellectual groups to participate in discussions concerning the migrations that have been induced by the ongoing pandemic. Multilateralism is really the way forward and the dialogue and discourse needs to become very empathetic and the stereotypes that were being practised for so long need to be recognized. Professor Binod Khadria, former faculty at JNU concluded by highlighting EAA (Equitable adversary analysis) wherein one needs to put themselves in the shoes of the adversary and then try to look at the issue from the other side because one cannot pretend that migration is just like an exchange of commodities or like some kind of a trade because its not so. Its a flow of human beings and hence, empathy becomes of primary value here and it is something that COVID-19 is constantly reminding us of.

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Migration governance during the pandemic: Marginalising the already marginalised? - India Education Diary

Standing in solidarity with migrants: Supporting civil society and other stakeholders in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic – World – ReliefWeb

The UN Network on Migration salutes all actors providing vital protection, monitoring, advocacy, information and support to and in collaboration with migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Civil society organizations, migrant and diaspora associations, workers and employers' organizations, national human rights institutions, youth and women-led organizations, local authorities and communities, the private sector and others play a vital role in protecting many of those rendered most vulnerable by the pandemic and responses to it. The Network calls for increased recognition for this work, including through avenues for meaningful participation and greater governmental and financial support.

The challenges many migrants already faced are now exacerbated by responses to COVID-19 that, whether by design or indirectly, lead to discrimination and exclusion. Access to relief measures, government support and national COVID-19 policy responses such as income support and social protection measures have, for many, remained elusive. What has emerged is a picture of a response to a virus that is as unequal in impact as COVID-19 itself, reinforcing patterns of discrimination, alongside heightened racism, xenophobia and intolerance against migrant workers and their families, while also violating their human rights.

As noted by the Secretary-General in his 3 June policy brief on COVID-19 and People on the Move, the exclusion of people on the move is the same reason they are among the most vulnerable to this pandemic today. He further stressed that such exclusion of migrants from policy responses not only undermines their fundamental human rights but also collective public health strategies to control and rollback the pandemic. Inclusion will pay off and is the only way that we can emerge from this crisis and overcome COVID-19.

In the face of these gaps, civil society and other relevant stakeholders have stepped into the breach. They are providing multi-lingual information on COVID-19 adapted to the context migrants are living and working in, hotlines on gender-based violence and harassment, legal services and advice on complaint mechanisms, human rights monitoring, mental health support, training, advocacy and campaign support. They have created solidarity networks and provide support to migrants, including food, water, essential medicine, shelter, personal protective equipment and economic assistance. They have established relief funds for farm workers, domestic workers and others who lost their livelihoods as a result of the pandemic. Workers and employers organizations, including through social dialogue and in coordination with local authorities, are promoting equal treatment, decent work and respect for fundamental principles and rights at work. Civil society organizations and other stakeholders are also facilitating migrants to be included in the planning of policy responses to the pandemic. Concerted action of governments and stakeholders in developing COVID-19 policy responses is key in ensuring that migrants rights and contributions are addressed and fostered.

The UN Network on Migration has actively undertaken a COVID-19 online series of Listening Sessions to hear directly from stakeholders at local, national and global levels providing a platform to exchange information and mutually reinforce responses. Reflections from these individuals and groups on thematic and cross-cutting issues serve as a resource for examples from the ground and recommendations for good practices.

What is clear from these discussions, and other reports, is that in providing this vital assistance, these organizations are acting as a critical safety net when State measures are lacking and where movement restrictions severely limit the ability of others to effectively support migrants. Further, they are performing these roles at the very moment they too face a crisis of capacity brought on both by the scale of the emergency and increasing constraints on their own resources.

The UN Network on Migration calls for greater acknowledgement and support to these actors, particularly for their inclusive participation in planning responses to the pandemic and flexible and fast-tracked funding to civil society organizations and other key stakeholders, to address gaps and needs in response to COVID-19.

Such additional support, however, should complement and not replace the primary obligation for States to provide COVID-19 responses that are non-discriminatory and respect human rights. This must include ensuring access to government relief packages, social protection, healthcare, education and other basic services to all migrants, regardless of status.

The many States and local authorities that have initiated migrant-inclusive COVID-19 responses and support to stakeholders serve as examples of good practices. In a time of dramatically increasing strains on public financing, it is important that all these actors and their work with migrants are acknowledged as essential partners for a truly collective response to COVID-19.

The Network also urges governments to recall their commitments in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), including in their whole-of-society approach. The Network calls on States to also implement these recommendations where they apply to refugees and asylum-seekers and to protect the human rights of all migrants, regardless of status, including the human rights to the highest attainable health of everyone equally.

The Guiding Principles of the GCM recognise that the pursuit of principled migration governance requires the input of all sectors of government and society. Now, more than ever, is the time to ensure that this principle is upheld.

The United Nations established a Network on Migration to support the implementation, follow-up and review of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) as well as ensure effective, timely and coordinated system-wide support to Member States.

In carrying out its mandate, the Network prioritizes the rights and well-being of migrants and their communities of destination, origin, and transit. It places emphasis on those issues where a common UN system approach would add value and from which results and impact can be readily gauged.

Through its Mobility in the Time of Covid-19 briefings1, the Network will continue to support civil society through holding regular Listening Sessions with stakeholders to inform the responses of the UN system, and amplify civil society initiatives including through the use of the GCM.

Media points of contact:

IOMSafa Msehlismsehli@iom.int or media@iom.int

ILOAdam BowersPlanning and Coordination Officer for Communication+41 (0)22 799 63 48newsroom@ilo.org

OHCHRRupert ColvilleSpokesperson / Head of Media. +41 22 917 9767 rcolville@ohchr.org

UNODCMs. Sonya Yee Speechwriter and Spokesperson Office of the Executive DirectorUnited Nations Office on Drugs and Crime sonya.yee@un.org

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Standing in solidarity with migrants: Supporting civil society and other stakeholders in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic - World - ReliefWeb

B-schools face a moment of reckoning – Livemint

Bansal is in the middle of an online pre-orientation. Classes are expected to start soon, online again. The e-experience isnt something most students would have bargained for. Bansal, nevertheless, hoped that by the end of the course in 2022, she would pick up skills that would polish her into a better professional. She expects to be offered a job with an annual salary package of 17-18 lakh, more than three times what she was drawing in her last stint, as a brand executive in an e-commerce firm.

Like Bansal, millions of Indians continue to see value in an MBA degree every year. Not only is it a shot at a better pay, in a good deal of cases, the degree is a passport to switching careers. Of course, everything depends on the reputation of the school, what is taught, the alumni network, and the sort of companies that knock on the door during campus placements. India has nearly 5,000 management schools and by most accounts, an overwhelming majority of them are mediocre institutions that dont add much value to CVs.

India produces upwards of 400,000 MBAs a year. Only in 20 schools is the starting salary more than the fees paid. And only 19% of the MBAs are technically qualified to take up jobs, Shiv Shivakumar, group executive president of corporate strategy and business development at Aditya Birla Group and a former president of the All India Management Association (AIMA), informed.

The long tail of mediocre B-schools now faces a crisis. On the demand side is a tight employment market. Campus placements are usually conducted between December and April. According to AIMA, many management institutes have either halted or left the placement process incomplete in 2020 because of the lockdown. Most tier II and III B-schools are still struggling to place their students. Students who joined schools in 2019 may not get good internship opportunities. This will have a direct impact on the final placement of 2021, the body stated.

On the supply side, intake of students for one-year courses hangs in the balance. There is uncertainty about the path of the economic recovery and by extension, the jobs market next year.

The better schools are better off. Mint, in January, reported that the average salary offer was up 7-15% in top B-schools compared to the last placement season. But even they need a pivot. Online delivery of content is a new beast and professors are ill-prepared. Schools need to refresh what they teach as well as create new content since business models have undergone dramatic shifts in under two months.

Indias best management schools are mostly stand-alone institutions. Both academics and employers are questioning if they are capable enough to prepare students for complex problems in a world that is seemingly more multi-disciplinary.

Sunil Kant Munjal, chairman at Hero Enterprise, pointed out that three themes are consistent with every company at the moment. Every business is inducting more technology, building a new level of efficiency in operations and a completely new cost model. If business schools are not teaching these, they will get left behind," he said. Munjal is the chancellor of BML Munjal University and is on the governing council of IIM Ahmedabad and on the board of ISB.

The black swan event has raised yet another question: Are Indian business schools equipped to train people to expect the unexpected? The reality of life is that this is not the last time we will see a crisis. We will see more of them, whether it is due to climate change, technological changes, or cultural and social changes. The best and the smarter schools have to make this as an inherent part of their curriculumplan for the unplanned," Munjal said.

The supply conundrum

Mudit Gupta is a consultant with Indias ministry of statistics and programme implementation where he works on complex surveys. He is thinking of doing an MBAnext year. I am looking for an international business management programme for next year. Universities are offering an e-experience currently, which is not very valuable," he said. Gupta would much rather prefer networking with batch mates, the old-fashioned style. I want to get out and interact with peeps around. MBA is all about peers."

Thats one of the challenges B-schools face in 2020. Besides interactions with like-minded students, an MBA class gains from interactions with rockstar faculty and a great campus life, which is intellectually stimulating, pointed out Shivakumar. If I am doing an MBA this year, the experience will be very different because the bulk of the courses will be online. Students will ask if they should be paying 15-25 lakh for a reduced experience. Deferrals will be big," he said.

There are more nuances to the supply conundrum. There are broadly three types of MBA programmes. The conventional two-year course that is preferred by freshers and those with work experience of less than three years; a one year-degree that is tailored for professionals with work experience of four-five years or more. A third category is part-time programmes.

While the demand for MBA programmes that dont require prior work experience are expected to remain stable or even increase, B-schools that require work experience may see reduced intake in current circumstances. Why is that? If a person is already in a job, he would think twice before letting go and joining an MBA programme in 2020 given the economy. Keeping the job is a big deal now," Rekha Sethi, director general at AIMA, said.

In a good year, short-term management programmes are a hit with working professionals because they have to take only a years break from work. Recruiters seem to like it too but 2020 is tricky.

A top class one-year programme is superior to a two-year programme. The reason is that these programmes usually admit experienced people. From a recruiters perspective, it is easier to integrate a person who has already worked into a working environment versus someone who has never worked. This is why one-year programmes have a decent demand in terms of placement," A.K. Balaji Prasad, managing director of Drshti Strategic Research Services, a market research company, said. Prasad is secretary of IIM Calcuttas alumni chapter in Mumbai. However, now, two-year programmes would be preferable because by the time you are getting out, the economy would have had time to recover," he added.

So what happens to the long tail of mediocre institutions given the short to mid-term challenges? Their student intake is expected to dip but many of them would continue being afloat. Education is recession proof in India considering the countrys young demographic. In a crisis time, you need more hope. Educational institutions are organizations of hope. Thats why parents and young kids will continue to come to these institutions despite the fact that many of them provide low-level, low-quality education," Pankaj Chandra, vice-chancellor of Ahmedabad University and a former director of IIM Bangalore, explained.

What to teach

Around September of last year, Rishikesha Krishnan, professor of strategy at IIM Bangalore, taught case studies on the airlines industry and on Uber. The discussion on airlines revolved around competitive dynamics and commoditization; Uber was about how the company disrupted private transport.

Then, the pandemic disrupted the disrupterprivate transport is expected to make a comeback as people avoid shared mobility. And airlines companies face a sudden deep drop in demand. Content relevant a few months ago has gone stale. New content, therefore, has got to emphasize more on such contingencies and business continuity planning. Krishnan thinks the importance of resilience, managing crisis and climate change will be underlined in bold.

This is not just true of Indian schools. Global B-schools appear to be preparing for such changes, too. Vijay Govindarajan, Coxe distinguished professor of management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and Anup Srivastava, Canada research chair at Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, both seem to think that currently, schools focus a lot on algorithmic learning" or where there are predetermined answers to predetermined questions.

Schools will have to reduce emphasis on algorithmic learning and increase the emphasis on higher order skills", they stressed in an email response to Mints questions. These skills include creativity, empathy, leadership, conflict management, strategic thinking, understanding technological progress, disruption, crisis management, problem solving, and dynamic decision making among others.

Meanwhile, the dialogue around business ethics is expected to get sharper in India post the migrant crisis. For the last few decades, businesses have practised a very narrow kind of capitalism, which is to deliver financial results and profits. This drives the share price and total shareholder return (TSR). Rewards for executives are aligned to these goals, Anjali Bansal, founder of Avaana Capital, pointed out. Bansal is on the governing body of SP Jain Institute of Management and Research.

However, we need to have a greater focus on ethics, values, sustainability, building responsible businesses versus building just a business. Companies are talking of ESG (environment, sustainability, governance) goals, diversity and inclusion, being responsible. The leadership is expected to deliver on these goals," she said. It is a good time now to include this as part of the learning and development agenda in companies, both to educate and train the leaders as well as passing it on to their juniors who they mentor," she added.

A few academicians see a bigger role for management schools in the future. B-schools could metamorphose into a platform for dialogue between the government and other stakeholders such as businesses and NGOs, Rajendra Srivastava, dean of ISB, suggested. That could help resolve complex problems like the pandemic India is grappling with. Srivastava also spoke of a life-long learning contract" with students, going ahead. The speed of change and uncertainty implies that executives would need to refresh what they learnt every few years. That could mean shorter but more frequent executive management programmes for the alumni.

We should be teaching how to manage crises. Then there is new technology such as the Internet of Things and blockchain. Someone who has got their MBA 10 years back doesnt have this as part of their toolkit," the dean said.

The rise of tech

The ministry of human resource developments National Institutional Ranking Framework shows an interesting trend. IITs and other technology institutions that offer management programmes are climbing in the pecking order. In 2020, there are seven technology institutes in the top 20 when it comes to management rankings. There were just two in 2016. Recruiters see this trend accelerating post the pandemic with every company in the middle of a digital transformationtech institutions are set to become a bigger force in management education.

Only in recent years have we seen tech institutions such as IITs, NITIE and NITs gain prominence in management education. This is because 15 to 20 years ago, strategy and management consulting were considered two sides of the same coin. Subsequently, this shifted to strategy/management and operations consulting. Today, strategy/operations consulting and technology have become two sides of the same coin," Ramkumar Ramamoorthy, chairman and managing director of Cognizant India, said. In this changed context, no strategic road map or business process reimagining exercise can be undertaken without a deep understanding of what digital and related technologies can do to the organization," he added.

More competition for the top stand-alone B-schools isnt such a bad thing. It could force them out of complacency and aid in pivots, much like the businesses they supply talent to have done in recent months.

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B-schools face a moment of reckoning - Livemint

Portugal is treating migrants as citizens amid the Covid-19 crisis. Other countries must follow Le Taurillon – thenewfederalist.eu

Prime Minister Antonio Costa emphasised there is a long way to go in the fight against COVID-19 in Portugal. Photo credit: PES Communications

In a world that is currently overwhelmed by fear and despair that has rapidly been brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, a recent piece of legislation introduced by Portugal has revealed a small glimmer of hope.

The country has recently announced that it will grant temporary residency rights to all immigrants and asylum seekers who applied for residency in the country before the countrys state of emergency for Covid-19 was announced on 18March 2020. To gain access, asylum seekers must provide evidence of an ongoing request to apply for residency status.

Anyone with these rights will be given access to the countrys national health service, bank accounts, and work and rental contracts until 1July 2020 at least.

It is not known exactly how many people will be affected by this policy, but recent government statistics suggest that in 2019, a record number of 580,000 immigrants resided in Portugal, and 135,000 were granted residency in that year alone.

Portugal has been praised for its response to the pandemic, and the country has witnessed a fraction of cases and fatalities of its neighbouring country Spain.

The reason for this difference is not known for sure, but some doctors have suggested it is down to the countrys early movement restrictions, which were put in place after the country had witnessed only two deaths. Portugal also became the first EU country to open a drive-through Covid-19 testing centre.

It was recently announced that Portugal would extend its lockdown until May 1.

There is still no light at the end of the tunnel, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in an interview on TVI television on Friday. We have to walk through this tunnel and the more disciplined we are now the faster we will get to the end of it.

Many roadblocks prevent asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups from accessing the help they need, which puts them at particular risk of Covid-19.

Multiple factors, including financial costs, fear of deportation, language barriers, and fear of abuse or discrimination all act as barriers when it comes to getting help. Nations need to remove as many of these barriers as possible to make it possible for everyone to get the help they need.

Improving access to care will drastically curb the spread of the virus, ultimately leading to better overall public health outcomes.

Unfortunately, many countries are using the crisis as leverage to further marginalise those who most desperately need support.

The Trump administration has used the threat of the virus to suspend Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) legal proceedings until May at least. The U.S. has also closed its border to all new asylum seekers, even though novel coronavirus infection rates are far higher in the United States than in Mexico. There have even been reports that the United States may consider returning asylum seekers to their country of origin.

Meanwhile, Canadian President Justin Trudeau has declared that anyone who attempts to cross the Canada-US border to claim asylum would be turned back - despite making exceptions for temporary foreign workers, international students, and permanent resident applicants.

In the United Kingdom, it was recently announced that Home Secretary Priti Patel has refused to accept unaccompanied children from overcrowded refugee camps in Greece. Last year, Greece removed migrants from the social security system. They remain unprotected today.

Throughout history, crises have been catalysts for change. So far, the corona crisis has revealed the lack of national preparedness across most of the world, and perhaps even more importantly, the lack of solidarity between nations.

However, this could prove to be a global turning point. The crisis has led many countries around the world to take drastic measures that were previously considered unthinkable. In particular, Portugals pragmatic policy has revealed how it is possible to minimise the spread of the virus while respecting the dignity of those most in need of help.

It is a small start, but an example of how important it is that countries extend their critical services to all residents - regardless of where they were born. Now, more than ever, the health of each nation depends on everyone who is living in it - not just those with a government-issued ID card.

One of the big questions now is: are we waiting to return normal? Or are we ready to fight for these changes and build something different once this is over?

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Portugal is treating migrants as citizens amid the Covid-19 crisis. Other countries must follow Le Taurillon - thenewfederalist.eu

Cities lobby EU to offer shelter to migrant children from Greece – The Guardian

Ten European cities have pledged shelter to unaccompanied migrant children living in desperate conditions on Greek island camps or near the Turkish border.

Amsterdam, Barcelona and Leipzig are among the cities that have written to European Union leaders, saying they are ready to offer a home to vulnerable children to ease what they call a rapidly worsening humanitarian crisis in Greece.

We can provide these children with what they now so urgently need: to get out of there, to have a home, to be safe, to have access to medical care and to be looked after by dedicated people, the letter states.

But the cities can only make good on their pledge if national governments agree. Seven of the 10 local government signatories to the letter are in countries that have not volunteered to take in children under a relocation effort launched by the European commission in March.

Rutger Groot Wassink, Amsterdams deputy mayor for social affairs, said it was disappointing the Dutch government had declined to join the EU relocation scheme. He believes Dutch cities could house 500 children, with 30-35, maybe 40 children being brought to Amsterdam

Its not that we can send a plane in and pick them up, because you need the permission of the national government. But we feel we are putting pressure on our national government, which has been reluctant to move on this issue, he said.

The Dutch government a four-party liberal-centre-right coalition has so far declined to join the EU relocation effort, despite requests by Groot Wassink, who is a member of the Green party.

It might have something to do with the political situation in the Netherlands, where there is a huge debate on refugees and migrants and the national government doesnt want to be seen as refugee-friendly. From the perspective of some of the parties they feel that they do enough. They say they are helping Greece and of course there is help for Greece.

If the Dutch government lifted its opposition, Groot Wassink said transfers could happen fairly quickly, despite coronavirus restrictions. If there is a will it can be done even pretty soon, he said.

Ten EU countries Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg and Lithuania have pledged to take in at least 1,600 lone children from the Greek islands, just under a third of the 5,500 unaccompanied minors estimated to be in Greece.

So far, only a small number have been relocated: 12 to Luxembourg and 47 to Germany.

The municipal intervention chimes with comments from the German Social Democrat MEP Brigit Sippel, who said earlier this month that she knew of cities and German Lnder who are ready tomorrow, to do more. The MEP said Germanys federal government was moving too slowly and described the initial transfer of 47 children as ridiculous.

Amsterdam, with Utrecht, organised the initiative through the Eurocities network, which brings together more than 140 of the continents largest municipalities, including 20 UK cities. The UKs home secretary, Priti Patel, has refused calls to take in lone children from the Greek islands.

Groot Wassink said solidarity went beyond the EUs borders. He said: You [the UK] are still part of Europe.

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Cities lobby EU to offer shelter to migrant children from Greece - The Guardian

Turkish media thinks Greece "fears" Turkey’s recent naval exercises, forgets Greece’s undefeated navy – Greek City Times

Huge exercise in the Eastern Mediterranean! Intimidation of the enemy.

This was the headline of Turkish pro-Erdoan Daily Sabah. They never specifically mentioned Greece, but when they are referring to an enemy in the Eastern Mediterranean, it is not hard to connect the dots.

So what happened?

The Turkish navy between April 15-17 held exercises in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean with 33 warships, naval patrol planes, helicopters, drones and naval infantry units, in an attempt to intimidate Greece so that Turkey can one day carry out their plan of stealing resource-rich Greek maritime space and islands, as outlined in their Blue Homeland delusions.

As part of Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdoans delusions of stealing Greek maritime space and islands, as seen in the map in the above photo, he created a new map with ethnically-Turkish Muslim Brotherhood leader in Libya, Fayez al-Sarraj, to split up Greeces maritime space between them.

This of course was internationally rejected, and found no support as it violates the United Nations Charter Law of the Sea. Turkey claims it is acting within international laws to steal Greek maritime space with the Muslim Brotherhood government in Libya, but cannot explain why it is one of only 15 countries in the entire world to not sign the United Nations Charter Law of the Sea which recognises the maritime space of the Eastern Mediterranean far differently to Erdoans delusions, as seen below.

Libya is engulfed in a bitter civil war, with Turkey supporting jihadists and Muslim Brotherhood fighters based in the capital of Tripoli, as well as Misrata. On the opposing side is the Libyan National Army, comprised of many officers and admirals trained in Greek military and naval schools, and led by Field Marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar.

Unlike the Daily Sabah, Turkish state-owned propaganda outlet TRT, who were already ridiculed in a debunk article by Greek City Times in regards to their lies about the migrant crisis in Greece, were more direct in their targeting of Greece in an interview with Turkish defense industry researcher Hakan Kl.

The agreement on the exclusive region signed by the [Muslim Brotherhood] Libyan government with us creates a long corridor between our Mediterranean shores and Libya, said Kl.

So the fear and reaction of Greece is essentially about this. They are angry that our planes and ships show their presence by showing our flag, he claimed.

A ridiculous claim, even by TRT standards. We remind our readers that Greek Minister of National Defence, Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, said earlier this week as reported by Greek City Times, that the Greek armed forces are ready for any eventuality. We must repeat this. We are worried but we are not afraid.

Even setting words aside, we must remember that Greek pilots for consecutive years in a row have won the Best Warrior in NATO awards. More importantly, Greece has a navy that has never lost a battle since its modern creation in 1821 during the Greek War of Independence when the Ottoman Empire was utterly defeated.

Greece does not want war and actively avoids war with Turkey despite its constant neo-Ottoman ambitions to annex and steal land in not only Greece, but also in Syria and other neighbouring countries.

As Greece does not have a desire for war, it actively seeks methods to de-escalate Turkish-induced crises and despite Erdoans grandeur illusions of being an Ottoman Sultan.

Turkey attempted and failed to invade Greece asymmetrically in February and March by using illegal immigrants, attempted and failed to invade Idlib province in northwest Syria, and has attempted and failed to uproot Haftars Army as he continues to defeat the Turkish-backed Muslim Brotherhood and their jihadist allies in Libya.

TRT and Sabah attempting to convince the Turkish public that Greece fears their military is just a distraction as Turkey has allowed the coronavirus and the economy to get out of control.

Turkey isone of the lowest ranked countries for media freedoms in the world, is the second most susceptible country surveyed on the European continent and its surroundings to fake news, has themost journalists jailedin the whole world, and90% of media is government controlled.

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Turkish media thinks Greece "fears" Turkey's recent naval exercises, forgets Greece's undefeated navy - Greek City Times

‘If France needs us, we’re ready:’ Migrant healthcare workers want to aid the fight against COVID-19 – InfoMigrants

With the French health services overwhelmed during the coronavirus crisis, dozens of refugees and asylum seekers with medical expertise in their home countries are ready to volunteer their services as a gesture of "gratitude." However, most are still waiting for a chance to help.

"At thebeginning of the epidemic, watching the news on TV about the number ofpatients in emergency rooms and the overload on the health serviceswas very disturbing," explained Bayan Ustwani, a 53-year-oldSyrian refugee who has been living in France for five years. The newswas particularly disturbing for Ustwani since he has skills andexperience in the medical sector but could not put them to use inFrance's hour of need.

Ustwani, apharmacist in Syria, has not practiced since he left his nativecountry since he does not have French qualifications or an "equivalence" diploma. "To get it, I had to go back toschool for several years and I simply couldn't I had to workright away," explained Ustwani, who also holds a commercedegree.

The inability to puthis medical skills to work during the latest unprecedented publichealth crisis has been frustrating. "I can do a lot of things:running a monitor, making antibacterial gel from mixtures orwhatever," he said.

In March, as soon asFrance's nationwide lockdown began, Ustwani coordinated with adozen other migrant healthcare workers who were members of theFacebook group, "Syrian doctors and pharmacists in France"to offer their help "to the Ministry of Health, the PrimeMinister and the Red Cross."

"If Franceneeds us, we are ready and willing to help, even on a voluntarybasis," said Ustwani, who explained he wanted to help out as anact of "gratitude to France."

An extraordinaryappeal

As the deadlypandemic continued to spread, the French health ministry on March 25launched an appeal for active and retired health professionals tovolunteer to help their overextended colleagues cope with the crisis.

It was an expansivemobilization call in a sector known for its strict authorizationrequirements. To facilitate the use of all volunteers, France'sInter-ministerial Delegation for the Reception and Integration ofRefugees stated that refugees with diplomas from outside the EuropeanUnion (EU), who had worked in their countries of origin as doctors,dental surgeons or pharmacists, were authorized to work in Frenchpublic institutions, but "under a contractual status" andunder the supervision of an accredited doctor.

In a sign of the urgent nature of the situation, the government extended these conditions "during thecrisis" to "foreign nationals who do not have refugee status"in France.

A decree was alsopublished on April 1 authorizing doctors, dental surgeons, midwivesand pharmacists, with diplomas from outside the EU, to practice in someof France's overseas territories, which are considered "lessattractive" in the health sector.

'I'll doanything to help'

There has been noshortage of good will among migrants in France who have worked inhealth services in their countries of origin. A number of WhatsAppgroups, similar to Ustwani's Facebook group, have been set up amongmigrant candidates.

"I'll doanything to help," said Mohamed, a 39-year-old Libyan, quoted ina statement on the UN refugee agency UNHCR website. "I can workin the emergency department of a hospital in any position. I can bean assistant nurse, I can help give out information. For all thesepositions, it's very important to have hospital staff who know how todeal with such a situation."

Franoise Henry,secretary general of the Association for the Reception of RefugeeDoctors and Health Workers in France, known by the French acronymAPSR, says she is in contact with five professionals who applied forpositions in the Paris region, one of the country's biggest outbreakclusters. "They are people from French-speaking Africa, so theyhave a mastery of the language. One of them is an Algerian asylumseeker who was a nurse for 20 years," said Henry, noting that theformer nurse had already done two applications for recruitment inEssonne, a department around 50 kilometres south of Paris.

"They couldhelp with basic tasks, such as turning over a patient, which is an actthat requires a lot of staff," explained Henry.

'We must notforget the talents of refugees'

However, many suchrefugees or asylum seekers were still waiting for a response to theirapplications. Henry acknowledged that as of April 15, none of theprofessionals she was in contact with had received a call.

Of the ten or sohealth professionals on Ustwanis Facebook group, only one, an ENTsurgeon, had been contacted by a health establishment after sendingout his application. "I'm a bit surprised, but that's how itis," said Ustwani.

Faced with thissituation, which goes beyond the borders of France, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and theCouncil of Europe have urged EU countries to use refugee healthservice staff who have the necessary skills and experience. "Atthis critical time, we must not forget the talents of refugees,"said Cline Schmitt, UNHCR spokesperson in France. "Especiallysince we really feel this desire on the part of health professionalsto help the countries that have taken them in."

One of the tools tobest organize these reinforcements would be, according to UNHCR, theEuropean Refugee Qualification Passport.

Set up in 2017, theproject issues adocument providing an assessment of the higher educationqualifications aswell as informationon the applicant's work experience and language proficiency. Thesystem can "helpestablish a list of pre-assessed refugee health practitioners"and thus enable national health authorities to determine how best todeploy them if and when necessary. For Schmitt, the value of theEuropean Refugee Qualification Passport is evident. "Theexpertise exists," she explains, "and the solutions as well."

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'If France needs us, we're ready:' Migrant healthcare workers want to aid the fight against COVID-19 - InfoMigrants

Sick, stranded and broke: COVID-19 crisis hits Gulf’s migrant workers – CNA

ABU DHABI: When all nine men in his dormitory caught coronavirus, 27-year-old Nurudhin was bused to a remote quarantine camp - becoming one of many migrant workers Gulf states are struggling to accommodate adequately.

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.

"There is nothing in my room except for a small bed. I have to share a bathroom with 20 to 30 people," said Nurudhin, a draftsman from India who was hospitalised before being taken to a remote isolation facility for blue-collar workers in the United Arab Emirates.

"There is no WiFi. Not even a television. But the situation in my room was even worse," he said of his crowded quarters in Abu Dhabi, which proved a fertile ground for the disease.

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.

Riyadh says foreigners account for 70 to 80 per cent of recently discovered 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.

WORRIED ABOUT OUR BROTHERS

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.

As of Apr20, around 22,900 foreigners had been repatriated on 127 flights from otherwise closed airports, officials said.

But India, which has 3.2 million citizens in the UAE alone, has refused to cooperate, saying that repatriating and quarantining millions of returning citizens would be a logistical and safety nightmare.

Bangladesh has reluctantly agreed to take back thousands of its citizens to avoid punishment from Gulf states in the future, its Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said.

"If we don't bring them home ... they won't recruit people from us once their situation improves," he told AFP, adding that thousands of undocumented workers and hundreds of prisoners are being flown back, including a planeload from Saudi Arabia last week.

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

Its diplomats in Dubai appealed to Pakistanis not to go to the consulate, after a large number - desperate to return home - gathered to demand seats on limited special flights.

"We are worried about our brothers in the Gulf. The lockdown and closure of daily business in the Gulf have rendered many overseas Pakistanis without a livelihood," Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said last week.

A UAE spokesman said it owed migrant workers a "debt of gratitude" and that it was providing healthcare, food and accommodation, and relaxing immigration rules for those with expiring visas.

HUNGRY AND ISOLATED

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.

Attempts by Gulf states to curb the virus were inflicting more hardship, with lockdowns that left workers short of food and water, she told AFP, adding that charities stepping in were overwhelmed.

"Workers who are still required to work are being put on buses where they cannot socially distance, and sent to sites where social distancing is not being practised or protective equipment and sanitation is not adequately provided," she said.

Millions of migrant workers face future uncertainty as the now unwanted workforce is haggled over by their governments and host countries.

"I want to go back to my country ... I don't have any money and I don't want to spend more time here," said an Egyptian man in Kuwait City who is being held at a camp for immigration offences.

Javed Paresh, a construction worker in the emirate of Sharjah, is among the tens of thousands of Pakistanis who have registered to fly home.

"I have not been paid for the last six months. I just want to go home and see my family. My family will die of hunger as I am unable to send them money for many months," he said.

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Sick, stranded and broke: COVID-19 crisis hits Gulf's migrant workers - CNA

Modi govt reckless, migrant crisis ‘enduring blot’: Manish Tewari [Exclusive interview] – International Business Times, India Edition

Priyanka Gandhi makes political plunge; will it save congress?

Senior Congress leader, Lok Sabha MP and former information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari has attacked the Narendra Modi government over the delay in releasing a stimulus package for MSMEs and its handling of the migrant crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic. In an exclusive interview with International Business Times, India, Tewari spoke at length about the government's response to the pandemic, the issues concerning the poor, communal hatred, and the economic crisis.

Twitter/@ManishTewari

A section of people have praised India's efforts to contain Covid-19, while the other criticised them. How do you rate Modi govt's response to the pandemic and what, according to you, should have been the govt's response to flattening the curve?

The first thing that we need to understand it that a lockdown was possibly essential in order to buy time for both the health infrastructure to come up to speed and also stop the rapid proliferation of Covid-19. However, a lockdown is not an enduring solution to Covid-19. The virus is here to stay in the absence of a vaccine and ultimately it will run through the society. So, therefore, we have to really find a modus operandi of being able to live with this pathogen and try to keep both hospitalisation and fatalities at the minimum till the time a sustainable vaccine doesn't get widely used.

So, under those circumstances, it is too premature at this point in time to really evaluate the efficacy of a lockdown and perennial strategy because when the lockdown took place or when the Janata curfew was announced on March 22, India had 340 infections and 7 deaths. Today, the number is over 23,000 and the number of deaths is also close to 700. So, under those circumstances, had the lockdown not taken place, could these numbers be higher as some mathematical models really project them to be? These are things that will have to stand the test of hindsight. So, its an evolving situation and let's wait for the situation to settle down and then make a very hardheaded analysis of what was done right and was done wrong.

The lockdown has left lakhs of migrants without food, shelter, and jobs. The govt has announced a stimulus package and claimed they won't let anyone sleep hungry. Do you think the stimulus was not enough to address the concerns of migrants? And what the govt needs to do now to address the migrant crisis?

Well, the short notice lockdown has actually revealed the worst of Indian society once again that we don't care about our poor and marginalised and disempowered. The manner in which we have as a country treated out migrants should make every Indian hang their head in shame. So on one end of the spectrum, you have people putting on Facebook the new recipes they are trying and generally treating the lockdown as a luxurious holiday and on the other hand, there are 110 million people who are struggling without food shelter and transport on the roads to get back safely to their homes. And in the manner in which they were doused with chemicals, forcibly detained in quarantine camps and even now continue in those camps despite the fact that their routine period ran out a long time back is possibly the worst manifestation of insensitivity which the government and we, as a society, have displayed. We have completely and absolutely failed our poor in every sense. And therefore this is something going to become an enduring blot on the face of this nation in the months and years ahead.

The lockdown has also ruined the economy. Industries are shut, lakhs of people have lost their jobs and MSMEs are among the worst-hit. I see Rahul Gandhi also raising this issue, but still, there has not been a relief package for this sector. Why is this delay?

Well, the global economy has been devastated, to say the least. And the relief and rehab package which the government had announced constitutes only 0.7 per cent of the GDP of India. The combined expenditure of the central and state governments put together is 80 lakh crores. We can easily, through a process of expenditure rationalisation, be able to find the money in order to provide Rs 5,000 per month, at least for the next three months, to the 11 crore families at the bottom of the pyramid. This would cost about 1 lakh crore but we can easily find the money in order to give both the salary support as well as credit support to our medium and small enterprises which again employes 11 crore odd people. So, therefore, I don't think there is a paucity of resources, However, there is both a paucity of imagination and possibly the wisdom as to how an economy is run.

There has been a rise in communal hatred amid Covid-19 pandemic. There have been reports showing how people are not buying fruits and vegetables from Muslims. Recently, the UAE princess also raised the issue of "Islamophobia" in India. Do you think there is "Islamophobia" in India? And should PM Modi come out and address the issue, especially after Arab countries have expressed concern.

I don't think that there is any Islamophobia in Indian society. The fact is that the Tablighi Jamat did make a mistake by not canceling that congregation which had a lot of international delegates also. At a point in time when public gathering around the country and the world were being cancelled as both the infection and death rates were mounting, they should have been careful. Unfortunately, their carelessness has caused a certain amount of disquiet in society. But its suffice to say that except for the lunatic fringe which is always omnipresent in India's social media, there is no available hatred towards any minority in the society. I think India's syncretic bonds are strong enough to surmount any attempt to be able to drive a wage between the communities.

Your Party President Sonia Gandhi has accused the BJP of has accused the BJP of spreading the 'Virus of communal hatred'?

At this point in time, when the entire focus should be on combating the pandemic, the manner in which the ruling party still goes about its cynical politics is extremely unfortunate. And it seems that some people in the ruling establishment do not grasp the gravity of the situation.

Will you condemn the ink attack on Arnab Goswami? He has accused your party.Your views on the entire Arnab Goswami episode?

I don't even want to dignify that question with a response. I think certain people are too inconsequential to be even worth commenting upon.

Does Congress party see an opportunity to bounce back post coronavirus? What would be your party strategy?

We see this as a humanitarian tragedy, we don't see this as a political opportunity. So, therefore at this point in time, our entire attention is focused on how best can allelementsof the national power be brought to together so our people can be insulated from the effects of the pandemic.

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Modi govt reckless, migrant crisis 'enduring blot': Manish Tewari [Exclusive interview] - International Business Times, India Edition

For Indian migrants in the Gulf it is a financial rather than a health crisis – Open Democracy

Sub-standard living conditions and poor hygiene expose these vulnerable workers to the risk of contracting the virus. These low-income migrant workers are largely excluded from social security and health insurance in Gulf countries, which would reduce their access to healthcare related benefits and treatment if they are infected. This would prove to be an additional source of distress on their already meagre savings and lack of income till the lockdown ends.

The aftermath of the pandemic may also have an adverse impact on the Indian workers who have obtained their work visas but are unable to enter the Gulf countries due to the lockdown. The instability of the Gulf economy has been further worsened by the pandemic. As a consequence, the employers may either cancel or postpone the recruitment of workers. This may further decline the already dipping rate of recruitment of migrant workers in the India-Gulf corridor. Since the spread of the virus is identified with people having a foreign travel history, this may lead to the stigmatization of the migrants returning from the Gulf and other countries.

Despite the measures undertaken by Gulf countries, the pandemic has already caused severe and unprecedented economic, social, health and psychological implications on the migrant workers. These migrant workers should be brought under the purview of national health services and support systems.

Amidst this health crisis, migrants are more concerned with their financial woes than with their health. To overcome this, the Gulf governments should come forward to provide incentives for the migrant workers to cover their rent, food and wages or offer them the same benefits extended to non-migrant households. As for those workers returning to India, the Indian government should provide and cover the costs of special repatriation flights.

Originally posted here:

For Indian migrants in the Gulf it is a financial rather than a health crisis - Open Democracy


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