Migrant workers receive aid

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Returning migrants from Thailand receive assistance in Prey Veng from IOM Cambodia and Korea’s KOICA. IOM

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) visited migrant workers returning from Thailand at a quarantine centre in Prey Veng province.

The delegation visited to see first-hand the ongoing humanitarian efforts to assist Cambodian migrant workers returning because of Covid-19, according to a press release issued on Wednesday.

The mission is part of an ongoing project to protect returning migrants and host communities from the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

IOM Cambodia chief of mission Kristin Parco said the support from KOICA will help address the immediate needs of migrants as they travel from points of entry, through quarantine facilities and back to their communities in Prey Veng, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Siem Reap and Battambang provinces.

“The returning migrants will receive information on Covid-19 preventive measures, health screening and essential food supplies. The cooperation with KOICA is vital to support the efforts of the Cambodian government,” Parco said.

KOICA Cambodia country director Hyunjun Rho expressed appreciation to those who have worked hard to make the effort successful.

“We are pleased to see the continued support from the Prey Veng provincial authorities to protect returning migrants and host communities from the risk of transmission by providing prevention information, improving the efficiency of specimen collection in the province and providing essential food and hygiene supplies to quarantined migrants at the points of entry and in quarantine centres,” Rho said.

He said while speaking with families and communities in Prey Veng, they learned more about the challenges faced by migrant workers including their irregular migrant status abroad, working conditions and worry for their families in Cambodia.

The interviewed migrants worked in food processing, fishing or at gas stations while in Thailand. As infection rates rose there, the migrants made the decision to return to Cambodia, which they said seemed safer.

Two family members, Rith, 32, and Ny, 30, are quarantined at home in Prey Pnov commune, in Prey Veng province’s Pea Reang district.

Both said they have no plans to return to Thailand and intend to invest their savings in their own businesses. The joint business initiative would involve Rith starting frog farming and Ny running a grocery shop while their son attends the local school.

The migrant family said they were delighted to receive the quarantine supplies from KOICA and plan to begin their business venture after the quarantine period is completed.

Their neighbour Chheak, however, told the joint delegation a different story.

Chheak, 50, spent nearly three years working in Thailand but returned to Cambodia in October because of difficult working conditions. Having lost his main source of income, Chheak is worried about the future of his family.

He said he does not want to migrate again to Thailand due to his age and the harsh conditions abroad. At the same time, he cannot see any opportunities in his village other than farming.

Over 110,000 migrants have returned to Cambodia since March, including more than 1,000 migrants to Prey Veng. The returns were sparked by business closures and job losses in Thailand and neighbouring countries. Prey Veng has the fourth-largest number of returning migrants.

IOM Cambodia has been supporting the returning migrants in Prey Veng since April by supporting the quarantine facilities, distributing personal hygiene kits and essential food supplies and helping healthcare workers.

IOM Cambodia and KOICA Cambodia signed a memorandum of understanding last month to provide immediate health assistance to returning migrants from Thailand.