COVID-19: ILO, NHRC, NAPTIP seek protection for migrant workers

By Daniel Tyokua

The International Labour Organisation, National Human Rights commission , NHRC, and National Agency for the Prohibition in Trafficking of Persons (NAPTIP) have urged relevant authorities to evolve measures that will protect migrant workers.

At a one day webinar organised by the Abuja office of International Labour Organisation, the stakeholders deepened discussions on the need for nations to safeguard the rights of migrant workers at all timtimes.

They spoke at the instance of impact of Covid 19 on the rights of migrant workers in Nigeria.

In his presentations, the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu said Nigeria is signatory to the international conventions on the rights of migrants and therefore, the need to abide by its provision is imperative.

“Any emergency response to Covid 19 must be carried out in strict accordance with international Human Rights standard, including the convention on migrant workers.

“Such response must integrate migrant workers into the national Covid 19 prevention and response plans and policies including ensuring their access to health services”. Ojukwu said.

Also, the Director General, National Agency for the Prohibition in Trafficking of Persons, NAPTIP, Julie Okah expressed worry that most migrant workers in the informal sector are exposed to loss of jobs due to COVID-19.

She stressed the need for data on those who lost their jobs so as to give them social protection cover.

The DG urged all stakeholders to cooperate in guaranteeing the rights of migrants so as to prevent them from falling victims of human traffickers.

According to her, “those in the informal sector have suffered job losses and lack of social protection during the lockdown, even with the easing of the lockdown there is no guarantee that many of them will retain their jobs.

“There is an urgent need to compile a register for these workers who have lost their jobs to enable government take adequate measures for the protection of their rights and provide economic safety nets for them.

“Many of these workers are going to be vulnerable to exploitation by human traffickers and urgent steps need to be taken to secure their rights. Businesses should be encouraged to take out payroll insurance to protect their workers in crisis situations such as this” she said.

On his part, the Nigeria Country Director, Amnesty International, Osai Ojigho explained that there is a misunderstanding as to who a migrant worker is, which he emphasised the need to harmonise domestic and international provisions on the rights of indigenous and migrant workers so as to address the ambiguity as to the rights ascribed to nationals and non-nationals.

He discouraged the imposition of penalty for violation of Covid 19 guidelines and advocated for intensification of knowledge about the disease.

In her presentation, the ILO Regional Labour Migration and Mobility Specialist, Gloria Moreno Fontes drew attention to the deplorable condition of migrants in detention facilities where some of them are being infected.

Fontes called for social protection, capacity building and labour reintegration of migrant and returnee migrant workers noting that contribute to the development of the host and country of origin. She further urged African Nations to have a common position on International Labour Standard as well as to strengthen the capacity of their embassies/consular office to handle migration issues.

In his remarks, the Director of ILO Abuja Office, Dennis Zulu expressed optimism that issues raised at the webinar will lead formal policies and concrete action towards protecting all categories of employees including migrant and returnee migrant workers.

The webinar is aimed at engaging with policymakers on the level of protection and promotion of migrant workers’ rights amid concerns of COVID-19 in Nigeria, highlight the nexus between labour migration, COVID-19 and rights of migrant workers and to raise awareness on good practices and available support mechanisms in place for protecting human and labour rights of migrant workers in Nigeria.

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