Global financial crisis may pose greater risks for migrants, UN-backed meeting hears

18 February 2009

The global financial crisis may have a dramatic impact on the lives of migrant workers in South-East Asia, participants at a United Nations-backed meeting held in Bangkok stressed, noting in particular the negative repercussions for migrants’ health and their risks of contracting HIV/AIDS.

The high-level regional meeting on migration and HIV noted that the crisis will result in more overseas migrants returning home after losing their jobs. It will also result in those recently laid off at home moving overseas in search of work.

“As some countries may take increasingly protectionist stances, the options for formal migration will narrow rapidly,” according to a press release on the meeting published by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

This will lead to a situation in which migrants may face increasingly difficult conditions with fewer employment opportunities, and may encounter greater discrimination and stigmatization. It can also lead to more undocumented migrants and unsafe migration, as well as make migrants more vulnerable to HIV infection.

The meeting focused on safeguarding the health of migrant workers, especially their access to HIV services – a major challenge in the region.

Among other things, the meeting recommended that necessary policies are put in place to ensure that migrant workers are protected and are not subjected to stigma and discrimination, and have equal access to information, HIV treatment, care and support.

The 12-13 February meeting brought together government representatives from 10 member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), UN agencies and civil society organizations.

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