TRIANGLE in ASEAN helps migrant workers hit by COVID-19

With the support of its partners on the ground, TRIANGLE in ASEAN responded rapidly during 2020 to the immediate needs of returning migrant workers and those in the countries of destination impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

News | 04 February 2021
BANGKOK (ILO News) - During the course of the year, more than 30,000 migrant workers were reached with food, masks, hand sanitizers, and information aimed at helping them stay safe and healthy. This figure comprises roughly 10,500 women, a similar number of men as well as 9,000 families and caretakers. Many more women and men migrant workers were also supported with counselling and legal assistance provided by TRIANGLE partners.

Anna Engblom, Chief Technical Advisor of TRIANGLE in ASEAN said, “Particularly at the early stages of the pandemic, many migrant workers were left in dire situations. Many migrant workers lost their jobs but were unable to return back to their home countries due to the closure of borders. Others, who were able to return home, were forced to quarantine in local centres with often very poor facilities. Through support of our donors, and in partnership with our migrant workers resource centres (MRCs) and other community based partners, TRIANGLE was able to respond very quickly and reached out to some of these migrants with various kind of emergency assistance. In the footsteps of the pandemic, we are also seeing increased violations of migrant workers’ labour rights across the region. Given that, we are now increasing the capacity of our MRCs to provide legal assistance to those in need”

Migrant workers in Thailand receive information about COVID-19
The countries in Southeast Asia were among the first to be affected by COVID-19. In the ASEAN region, migrant workers are among the most affected by the medical and economic impact of the crisis. Facing considerable uncertainty, many were dismissed or furloughed, and hundreds of thousands of migrant workers decided to move back home. With borders mostly closed, this migration was challenging and put pressure on migrants who faced high costs and a range of other barriers. It also put pressure on the countries of destination to manage the outflows and their home countries and communities to organize support, health screening, and quarantine.

To increase the evidence base, TRIANGLE in ASEAN, with other ILO labour migration programmes in the region produced a series of products, highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on migrant workers and country responses in Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand. Two rapid assessments were conducted on the situation of ASEAN migrant workers post COVID-19 with a first edition published in June 2020. The second edition will be launched in the coming months.

From September to November 2020, TRIANGLE in ASEAN also supported governments in the region to prepare for the 13th ASEAN Forum for Migrant Labour with the theme: "Supporting Migrant Workers during the Pandemic for a Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN Community". The meeting, which brought together close to 100 stakeholders from governments, workers and employer’s organisations, and CSOs from all ten ASEAN member states, was hosted by the ASEAN Chair Viet Nam in November. It concluded with the adoption of twelve recommendations, which will help shape TRIANGLE in ASEAN’s work in 2021.

“Together with its partners, TRIANGLE in ASEAN will continue its efforts in 2021 with an increased focus on legal support to migrant workers, as well as institutional support focusing on how to build back better during and post COVID-19,” said Anna Engblom.