Reported COVID-19 cases in Asia and the Pacific region continue to increase, with varying contexts and patterns across the region. As of 23 June 2020, over 1.2 million cases and more than 38,700 deaths have been reported across the region. Confirmed cases have been reported in 28 countries, territories and/or areas. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Philippines continue to report concerning upward trends in new daily cases, despite limited testing capacity. Iran, Japan, Maldives, Singapore and Sri Lanka have witnessed relative stability or a decrease in new cases; however, in several instances, cases are concentrated among migrants or returnees, especially in dormitory accommodations for migrant workers and immigration detention centers. Several countries are now beginning to ease social public health measures, such as internal mobility restrictions and business closures, which is leading to increased internal movements and resumption of economic activity. The impact of these changes on transmission will need to be closely monitored.
Countries with significant outward labour migration, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Philippines, and those comprising the Greater Mekong Sub-Region, have witnessed heavy disruptions in established migration patterns. The anticipated economic recession in key migrant receiving countries due to lock down measures is likely to push migrant workers to return to countries of origin. As travel restrictions are gradually being lifted, migrant-sending countries are beginning to experience significant return of newly unemployed migrant workers.
Multiple countries in the region are facing reduced remittance flows. In Bangladesh, more than 10 million migrants sent USD 18 billion in remittances in 2019. However, under COVID-19, 73% of Bangladeshi remittance senders are in Gulf Cooperation Council countries with limited economic activity and under some form of lockdown. In Myanmar, economic losses in GDP for 2020 are estimated between USD 4.6 and 6.5 billion compared to projected normal growth. The poverty rate among remittance-receiving households in Myanmar has risen by 7.5%, and remittance income is significantly impacted for all remittance-receiving households; international remittance income is anticipated to fall by 50%, while internal remittance income is anticipated to fall by 30%. Remittances in Sri Lanka, which comprise 7.8% of the country’s GDP, fell by 32% in April 2020. Similarly, Viet Nam estimates that remittances will decrease by 17% in 2020 compared to 2019.
IOM missions in the region are working with governments and partners to ensure that migrants, whether in regular or irregular situations, as well as returnees and forcibly displaced persons, are included in all aspects of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.
Crucially, IOM is also coordinating closely with governments on immediate and long-term strategies for addressing the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 on migrant populations.
Source: International Organization for Migration