In an article published in late March on its CREST (Corporate Responsibility in Eliminating Slavery and Trafficking) project website, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) acknowledged that the current COVID-19 pandemic is contributing to exacerbate the already existing migrant workers’ vulnerabilities. Excessive recruitment fees, unclear terms and conditions, isolation, indecent accommodation and potential debt-bondage, among other, are common abuses suffered by overseas labourers, but in the current pandemic scenario, “the most vulnerable among them (the migrants) now face being hit hardest by the negative impacts in global communities, businesses and supply chains”, states IOM.

In an effort to encourage employers and businesses to include migrants in the measures to contain the pandemic and consider their particular situation, IOM has created a Guidance Document for employers and businesses with the aim to enhance migrant worker protection during the current health crisis.

The guidelines offer specific and preliminary advice to establish effective protections in 15 areas. The first area sets the general considerations to enhance migrant worker protection, highlighting the importance of ensuring equality, dignity and respect, regardless of gender and migration status.

The rest of the areas are more specific, ranging from enhancing safety and health in the workplace, mitigating stress and anxiety related to COVID-19, promoting universal access to health care and insurance, as well as to social security, or adapting work and living conditions arrangements.

The document stresses the need to safeguard the rights of migrant workers in times of crisis, including the payment of wages and economic well-being of migrant workers and combating xenophobia and social exclusion during the crisis.

There are also particular guidelines on how to protect migrants on their return to their home countries during the pandemic, a relevant point in the case of Cambodia, where thousands of migrants starting leaving Thailand by the end of March.

The guidance is understood as a “living document” and will be updated alongside the evolution of the pandemic.