The nationwide lockdown in India which started about a month ago has impacted nearly 40 million internal migrants, the World Bank has said. “The lockdown in India has impacted the livelihoods of a large proportion of the country’s nearly 40 million internal migrants. Around 50,000-60,000 moved from urban centers to rural areas of origin in the span of a few days,” the bank said in a report released on Wednesday.
According to the report — ‘COVID-19 Crisis Through a Migration Lens’ — the magnitude of internal migration is about two-and-a-half times that of international migration. “Lockdowns, loss of employment, and social distancing prompted a chaotic and painful process of mass return for internal migrants in India and many countries in Latin America,” it said. Thus, the COVID-19 containment measures might have contributed to spreading the epidemic, the report said. “The governments need to address the challenges facing internal migrants by including them in health services and cash transfer and other social programs, and protecting them from discrimination,” it said. The World Bank said that the coronavirus crisis has affected both international and internal migration in the South Asia region.
As the early phases of the crisis unfolded, many international migrants, especially from the Gulf countries, returned to countries such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh – until travel restrictions halted these flows. Some migrants had to be evacuated by governments, such as those of China and Iran, it said. Before the novel coronavirus crisis, migrant outflows from the region were robust, the report said. The number of recorded, primarily low-skilled migrants from India and Pakistan rose in 2019 relative to the prior year but is expected to decline in 2020 due to the pandemic and oil price declines impacting the Gulf countries.
In India, the number of low-skilled migrants seeking mandatory clearance for emigration rose slightly by eight percent to 368,048 in 2019.