Economic shutdowns caused by COVID-19 left thousands of African migrant workers vulnerable – AU

African Union headquarters
African Union headquarter

The African Union (AU) Commission on Friday said that the economic shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has left thousands of African migrant workers vulnerable.

“The economic shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting public health measures have left thousands of migrant workers in African countries, and beyond, hard-hit and struggling to make ends meet,” the 55-member pan African bloc said in a statement issued on Friday.

According to the AU, many African migrants who are “deprived of work do not enjoy access to any social protection and the various relief measures that some governments are extending to their populations.”

“Even today, countries such as Djibouti, Sudan, South Africa, and Botswana find themselves in the difficult position of having to deport or repatriate stranded migrants back to their home countries, with those who choose to stay seeing access to the labor market shrinking rapidly,” it said.

The AU’s statement came after the AU Commission in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) met on the Joint Labour Migration Governance for Development and Integration Program (JLMP).

The virtual meeting among officials of the four international and continental organizations, among other things, discussed ways to strengthen the management of labor migration on the continent, despite the recent challenges brought forth by COVID-19.

Amira Elfadil, AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, during the virtual meeting commended the work of the joint initiative, as she emphasized that the initiative “has been one of the most successful projects the AU Commission has worked on.”

“It is a sustainable and growing project with many successes and presents opportunities to improve the way we manage labor migration on the continent,” the AU Commissioner said.

The Commissioner added that JLMP is improving the labor migration landscape across the continent and is a key project for implementation of the AU’s Agenda 2063, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as the Migration Policy Framework for Africa.

Maureen Achieng, IOM Ethiopia Chief of Mission and Representative to the AU, UNECA and IGAD, also noted that “despite the challenges we face due to COVID-19, the JLMP provides an opportunity to improve the lives of migrant workers across Africa during and beyond this crisis.”

The JLMP, which was launched back in 2015, works with AU member states, regional economic commissions, social partner organizations, migrants and diaspora associations to address identified challenges to effective labor migration management in many countries such as labor and skills shortages, dearth of statistics, weak ratification and domestication of labor standards and free circulation frameworks, and addressing the challenge of jobless growth and widespread youth unemployment.

According to the latest figures from the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the African continent reached 129,565 as of Friday afternoon, as the death toll from the ongoing pandemic surged to 3,790. Enditem

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