Migrants and Refugees in the MENA Region: Where are they now in the COVID-19 pandemic response?

17 Dec 2020 Jordan 17 Dec - 17 Dec

Migrants and Refugees in the MENA Region: Where are they now in the COVID-19 pandemic response?

  • 17 Dec - 17 Dec
  • Jordan

This Webinar will take place on December 17th from 15.00-18.00 Jordan time (14.00-17.00 CET) in Commemoration of December 18 International Migrants Day. The event is part of the PSI Project on Human Rights, Trade Unions and Quality Public Services for Refugees and Migrant Workers and is part of the COVID-19 Crisis Response.

The closure of borders, restrictions on travel, and lockdowns of varying length and severity have huge consequences on every country. In the MENA region, the pandemic has serious impacts on public health and unprecedented shocks to economies, food systems and labor, threatening the income and food security of millions of workers. According to the report released by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), in the beginning of October 2020, it is estimated that an additional 8.3 million people in the Arab region could fall into poverty.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, many migrant workers lost their jobs. Thousands had been laid off and stranded in their host countries with no means to return to their home countries. A large number of migrants work in the informal sector and often without official work permits and no social protection. Moreover, many migrants and refugee workers have limited or no access to health care. They live in overcrowded camps and housing and work in difficult conditions, thereby putting them and their communities at high risk to infection with several countries tightening immigration rules, imposition of curfew and border lock-downs, migrants and refugees live in constant fear, as they are often targeted with acts of violence, discrimination and deportation. Left with no choice, they endure these inhumane conditions as they could not return to their home countries mired in armed conflicts and wars.

In the light of this crisis, international governmental and non-governmental organizations, trade unions and civil society organizations are facing many challenges in implementing their policies related to and the protection of refugees and migrants.

Public Services International the global federation of public service trade unions, advocates for the rights-based approach in the global governance of migration, displacement and refugee issues and demand that states abide by their human rights obligations, as embodied in the UN and ILO Conventions.

In commemoration of International Migrants Day, PSI, together with its affiliated trade unions in Jordan, is organizing a webinar that will bring together trade union activists, civil society, government agencies and partners to examine the situation of migrants and refugees since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the MENA Region, particularly in Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Algeria. Speakers and participants are invited to share the challenges they face in promoting migrant and refugee rights in the face of the pandemic, and to identify strategies and actions to help deal with these challenges, specifically in view of labor rights and access to health services.

Draft Agenda

Session 1: Migrant and refugee workers right at work and social protection, 15.00 – 16.15

Moderator: Dr. Randa Khaldi, PSI local coordinator in Jordan, president of Women’s Committee, General Trade Union of Health Services and Pharmaceutical Industry, Jordan.

Topics and Speakers

  • Participants welcome, Introduction of PSI Migration and Refugee policy – Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary (5 min)

  • Role of Jordanian Government and Ministry of Labor in the protection of migrant and refugee workers (Syrian and other nationalities): Challenges and response – Mr. Maan Kattamin, Ministry of Labor – Jordan (7 min)

  • The Jordanian Trade Union Movement's Response Program on the Right to Work for Syrian Refugees: Challenges in the Time of Coronavirus and How to address it- President of the General Federation of Jordan Trade Unions - Mr. Mazen Al-Maaytah (7 minutes)

  • ILO response to the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on social protection – Mr. Mustapha Said – ACTRAV senior specialist (7 min)

  • The role played by the Arab Trade Union Confederation – ATUC – with the Global Unions Federations (GUFs) and members Trade union centers in defending migrant and refugee workers’ rights – Mr. Mustapha Tlili – ATUC Director. (7 min)

  • Trade unions and migrant and refugee Rights: Testimony on the ground – Mrs. Nassira Ghozlane – General Secretary –SNAPAP (7 min)


Break: 10 minutes

Session 2 : 16.25 – 18.00 : The human right to quality public health services for all

Moderator: Mr. Ali AL HADID PSI local coordinator – president of General Trade union for workers in Electricity

Topics and Speakers

  • PSI policy on access to health services for all – Mrs. Genevieve Gencianos – PSI Migration Programme Coordinator (7 min).

  • Trade unions and Access to health care for refugees in Sweden – Speaker on behalf of the Swedish trade unions (7 min)

  • Bilateral agreement between the WHO and the Ministry of Health in Tunisia on access to health services for all migrants: Observations in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic – Nawfal Rehayem – Executive board member of the national federation of health services – Tunisia, (7 min)

  • Legal framework on the protection of migrant workers and refugees in Jordan – Mrs. Linda Kalash – Director of the Civil Society Organization, TAMKEEN.

  • A trade unionist’s testimony on the situation of migrant and refugee workers affected by COVID-19 in Lebanon, Mrs. Nisreen Al Massri, member of the Social Workers Syndicate, Lebanon


  • Wrap up and Conclusion – Najwa Hanna – PSI acting Sub regional secretary for Arab countries