New Delhi, April 1: The Union Health Ministry has issued guidelines to deal with the crisis of migrant labourers who are facing harsh treatment by law enforcement agencies in various parts of the country due to nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The ministry said that the migrant workers, faced with the situation of spending a few days in temporary shelters, which may be quarantine centers, while trying to reach to their native places, are filled with “anxieties and fears”, stemming from various concerns, and are in need of “psycho-social” support.
The ministry said that they are prone to various social, psychological and emotional trauma in such situations, emanating from fear of neglect by the local community and concerns about the wellbeing and safety of their families back home.
Migrants are forced to leave their native places in search of better opportunities and earnings, sometimes leaving behind their families. In many instances, the families in native places depend partially or entirely on the money sent by the migrant earning members.
During the outbreak of communicable diseases, such as COVID-19, and the restrictions imposed on routine activities as part of social distancing norms to prevent the spread, scores of migrant workers tend to move back to their native places.
During the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic also, many migrant workers used all possible means to reach their destinations. Many of them are however stuck at borders, including state, district and national border areas. These are the most marginalized sections of the society who are dependent on daily wages for their living, and in times of such distress need sympathy and understanding of the society.
“Sometimes, they also face harassment and negative reactions of the local community. All this calls for strong social protection,” the ministry further said.
“Treat every migrant worker with dignity, respect, empathy, and compassion. Listen to their concerns patiently and understand their problems. Recognize specific and varied needs for each person/family. There is no generalization. Help them to acknowledge that this is an unusual situation of uncertainty and reassure them that the situation is transient and not going to last long. Normal life is going to resume soon,” said the guideline.
The ministry said all the information about possible sources of help should be given. Inform them about the support being extended by the Central Government, State Governments/NGOs/health care systems. Emphasize the importance of their staying in their present location and how mass movement could greatly and adversely affect all efforts to contain the virus. Make them realize their importance in the community and appreciate their contributions to society. Remind them that they have made their place with their own efforts, acquired the trust of their employer, sent remittances to their families and therefore deserve all respect. Reassure that even if their employer fails them, local administration and charitable institutions would extend all possible help.
“Out of desperation, many may react in a manner which may appear insulting. Try to understand their issues and be patient. If somebody is afraid of getting affected, tell them that the condition is curable, and that most recover from it. Remind them that it is safer for their families if they themselves stay away from them. Instead of reflecting any mercy, seek their support in the spirit of winning over the situation together,” said the statement.