Migrant domestic workers in Singapore have always faced multiple restrictions on their mobilities and rights: their stays are governed by the most restrictive of work permits which require them to live in employers’ homes. They have one day off per week (or in some cases, fortnight or month), and many suffer ongoing forms of exploitation and abuse behind the closed doors of their employers’ homes as labour legislation does not apply to domestic workers.
This contribution is based on the testimonies of about 25 frontline workers who, despite the dangers associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, have continued to support vulnerable groups including: undocumented migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, young people in special youth care, homeless people, and overall, people in poverty.
Restrictions impeding access to asylum, spiraling gender-based violence, risks of unsafe returns, and loss of livelihoods are among some of the deep and hard-hitting impacts the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted on refugees, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, warned today.
Among the actions taken by the Italian government to manage the arrival of migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic were the so-called ‘quarantine ships’ (former passenger ferries). The first experiment took place on the Rubattino where, between 17 April and 5 May 2020, 183 people were hosted.
COVID-19 has not affected all communities equally, and within the United States, racial and ethnic minority groups have been disproportionately affected by the virus. Reports indicate that immigrants and refugees, who constitute a large portion of the minority frontline workforce in healthcare, agriculture, and food supply chain industry, are at a higher risk of exposure to the virus.
In recent weeks, according to the United Nations, at least 167 countries have either fully or partially closed their borders. These travel restrictions seem an important means to help contain the pandemic, but they are also proving to be a way for some countries to forfeit their asylum responsibilities.