Japan helps migrant workers

Japan helps migrant workers

MASERU-THE Japanese government has donated US$676 690 (about M10.1 million) to help 200 Basotho migrant workers who returned from South Africa after losing their jobs during the Covid-19 lockdown.

This was revealed at the launch of the Socio-Economic Reintegration of Returnees and Other Vulnerable Households programme which is spearheaded by the International Organisation of Migrants (IOM) and partners.
Launched last week, the initiative targets those severely affected by Covid-19.

The project will be implemented in collaboration with the Ministries of Social Development, Labour and Local Government in targeted districts or communities.
The Labour Ministry’s principal secretary, Tamela Thabane, said the donation comes at a time when hundreds of people are still battling to recover from the impact of the lockdown.

“The trickle-down effects from this project cannot be underestimated and it is quite clear that families of beneficiaries and communities will reap the benefits from this project,” Thabane said.
Thabane said during the lockdown most Basotho could not return to their jobs in South Africa while some were forced to come back home after being retrenched.

He said efforts to help them have not been properly coordinated.
“This tendency has resulted in duplication of efforts and there is an urgent need to coordinate all these efforts,” he said.
“The need for coordination of activities, efficient and effective implementation of guidelines on sustainable reintegration of migrants through coordinating platforms is long overdue”.

He said the Labour Ministry continues to support returning migrant workers with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Covid-19 testing at both recruitment centres.
“It is high time that we look critically on how best we can assist them to level the ground through legislation and policies that would enable their return to the labour market,” he said.

“We must be proactive and put proper legislation, policies and structures in place so that our diaspora can be easily absorbed should they wish to return,” he said.
“If such policies existed, we could have easily avoided the reactive interventions that we had to undertake to mitigate the effects of Covid-19.”
“I hope the project will be implemented as planned.”

’Mantšenki Mphalane, the principal secretary of Social Development, said the huge number of Basotho who returned home last year “was a wakeup call that Lesotho should manage migration better”.
Mphalane said the government has been offering humanitarian assistance with support from UN agencies (WFP, IOM etc)
“However, more needs to be done to reintegrate returnees who have completely lost their jobs in SA and are struggling to restore their livelihoods,” she said.

“If they continue to suffer from unemployment and lack of income-generating activities in the country, irregular migration will increase and expose desperate Basotho youth to abuse, exploitation and human trafficking.”
Eriko Nishimura, the IOM Head of Office, said the project “can deeply transform people’s lives if piloting goes well”.

“I am very excited as we will be able to address the root causes, which was the push factor for irregular migration,” Nishimura said.
“We are strongly committed to working with the (Government of Lesotho) in strengthening governance and we have to work hard towards better management of migration for the benefits of all,” she said.

The IOM defines irregular migration as the movement of persons that takes place outside the laws, regulations, or international agreements governing the entry into or exit from the State of origin, transit or destination.

‘Mapule Motsopa

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