The rates of COVID-19 cases in the Asia-Pacific region continue to vary by country, with several countries experiencing new outbreaks after months of well-controlled cases. Daily case numbers in India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal and the Philippines continue to increase, and cases in Japan, Malaysia, and Republic of Korea have risen after months of stability. Numbers of reported confirmed cases in Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan and Viet Nam remained stable or decreased in recent weeks.
Several countries are preparing for new spikes in cases in the coming months, aiming to balance efforts to reduce the spread of the virus with the need to push forward economic recovery. With ongoing travel restrictions between countries, some governments are taking extra measures to prevent irregular migration through borders and checkpoints, especially among the borders of countries with recent spikes in COVID-19 cases. These and other restrictions continue to restrict labor migration between countries, with some countries continuing to maintain closed borders.
Discussions are ongoing to adopt a Ministerial-level Declaration of the Colombo Process Member States on the impact of COVID-19 on migrant workers, with a focus on the effects of the pandemic on labor migration and the need to uphold protection of these workers. The draft Declaration is currently being reviewed by Colombo Process Member States. The Governments of Sri Lanka and Pakistan have already provided inputs. IOM Nepal in their capacity as the Secretariat of the Colombo Process, is coordinating with the Member States with support from IOM Sri Lanka (through the Colombo Process Technical Support Unit).
One of the primary protection risks for migrants, refugees and other vulnerable populations is gender-based violence. During COVID-19, multiple IOM offices in the region have reported increased numbers of reported cases of GBV and calls to IOM’s protection and COVID-19 related hotlines. This increased demand for support is complicated by simultaneous reduced access to key support services as a result of COVID-19 related movement and physical distancing restrictions. Risks of human trafficking have also increased, especially as people lose their jobs and become desparate for livelihood opportunities. IOM teams across the region are leading Safe Migration Campaigns to educate migrants and aspiring migrants about the risks of trafficking and opportunities for regular migration.