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IJM and Partners Support 500 Migrants Stranded By Covid-19 Lockdown

India’s national lockdown to control the spread of Covid-19 will certainly protect millions from illness, but it has also left thousands of migrant labourers stranded at their worksites, with no public transportation to help them get home.

Governments and NGOs are now trying to find and support these stranded migrants, who have no ways to earn or eat now that businesses are closing down nationwide.

Last week, a member of parliament from Odisha state (Mr. Saptagiri Ulaka) contacted IJM about hundreds of labourers from his community who had become trapped at a factory in Erode, a major industrial city in Tamil Nadu state in southern India. A relative of one of these labourers had sent the MP a video of their plight at the factory, where the travel ban had severely limited their access to food and other amenities. The factory had shut down over the virus, but the men were not free to travel home or go outside. Mr. Ulaka also Tweeted to his counterparts in Erode asking for help.

Based on this tip, IJM staff in Chennai connected with our grassroots partners to support these migrant labourers and advocate to the local government. We discovered nearly 500 people were stranded in these dire conditions at the factory.

In response, the Erode Revenue District Officer (who oversees labour issues in the district and has been trained by IJM in the past) sent a team of officials to meet with the stranded labourers and spend several hours sensitively interviewing them about their needs. These officials then worked with the factory owners to map out a plan of care for the labourers, including food provisions for the rest of the lockdown period.

IJM commended the proactive response from these officials to keep migrants safe—proof the state of Tamil Nadu is committed to protecting vulnerable people—and celebrated the quick collaboration between NGOs and the government to serve these frightened labourers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Read how survivors have been leading the latest Covid-19 response efforts

Read more about our work ending slavery, bonded labour and trafficking in India

Image from Odisha MP, Saptagiri Ulaka on Twitter @saptagiriulaka

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