Connect with us

Global Affairs

‘They are invisible’: the migrant workers struggling in wake of India’s Covid response | Global development

Avatar

Published

on

When Ram Yadav fled India’s strict countrywide lockdown imposed in March 2020, he was one of the lucky ones, managing to hitch rides from Delhi on trucks going in the direction of his village near Kanpur, 400km (250 miles) away.

An estimated 10 million workers were forced to walk home, travelling on foot via fields, forests and highways in the scorching sun.

The day Yadav, 34, a construction worker, reached his village, he vowed never to return to the city. “I felt betrayed twice: by society, because no one around me lent a hand – my landlord kicked me out – and by the state. I trusted [the prime minister Narendra] Modi to help me in a once-in-a-lifetime crisis,” he says.

But when he failed to find any work in his village, he had no choice but to return to the city, only to find himself in an even worse situation than before. Like millions of others, he is poorer, hungrier and feels more abandoned than ever in the wake of the pandemic.

An estimated 400 million people work in India’s informal sector, on low daily wages and with no contract, pension, paid holidays or health benefits. The vast majority are not unionised as they are migrant labourers, scattered all over the country, who speak different languages.

Ram Yadav on a construction site.
Construction worker Ram Yadav, who has been left poorer, hungrier and feeling more abandoned than ever. Photograph: Amrit Dhillon

The labour economist KR Shyam Sundar says pay and working hours have worsened. “This is partly because employers are taking advantage of their desperation – workers will starve if they don’t work – and partly because the Indian economy has yet to recover from the losses of the pandemic, so jobs are very scarce and employers are looking to cut whatever they can,” says Sundar.

Yadav can vouch for the fact that wages are lower. Scrolling on his phone during a brief break at a construction site in Okhla, the suburban village south-east of Delhi where he works as a bricklayer, he says he is paid 450 rupees (£4.60) a day instead of the 600 rupees he earned before lockdown.

“Loads of us were in the queue for my job. The contractor said if I didn’t want 450 rupees, then others would be happy to take it,” says Yadav.

Across the country, a vast army of wage hunters is searching for chronically scarce jobs. Unemployment has risen to almost 8%, according to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy.

On 15 August, Modi gave a rousing speech to mark 75 years of independence. “I have been able to understand your happiness and sorrows,” he declared from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi. “I could sense your soul calling about the hopes and aspirations you have. With whatever I could embrace of your dreams, I immersed myself fully in empowering those countrymen who were left behind and deprived from being a part of the mainstream.”

Yadav, who has watched the televised independence speech every year since he was a teenager, ignored it and went to visit a relative instead. “I’ve realised it’s just words. Modi imposed the lockdown without even making sure that I had a roof over my head and something to eat. Why should I listen to his speeches?” he asks.

Chandan Kumar, coordinator for the Working People’s Coalition, in Mumbai, says migrant workers are powerless in the face of exploitation.

Indian migrant workers walk out of Delhi along a highway towards their villages following the announcement of lockdown, 28 March 2020.
Indian migrant workers walk out of Delhi along a highway towards their villages following the announcement of lockdown, 28 March 2020. Photograph: Altaf Qadri/AP

“Migrant workers cannot defend themselves. When they go to another state, they don’t even speak the local language. No one inspects the premises to check working conditions are safe. They don’t even feature in the records of the local state government. They are invisible,” he says.

The lack of bargaining power has made life harder for Varun Sharma, 16, one of the countless young men who deliver groceries by bike in the capital. He went home during the devastating second wave of Covid in March 2021 because, although the shop he worked for remained open, his family were scared for him. He returned last December.

“When I came back, uncle [his employer] paid me the same wage, but I have to work till 9pm instead of 7pm. I have to send money to my family in Bihar so that they can eat, so I had to accept the terms,” says Sharma.

Sundar has observed three changes in workers’ behaviour and hopes. One is that migrant workers have been so scarred by their experience of being abandoned by the state in their time of need that it determines their decision on where to work.

“Many now refuse to go to a city where they don’t know anybody, even if the wages are acceptable. Social capital is what matters now. They prefer to go where they have a relative or know someone. That’s the psychological impact of the lockdowns. There is more fear than before,’ says Sundar.

The second is that workers are so desperate they are settling for wages they used to reject.

“Pre-pandemic, workers would not work for less than the ‘reservation wage’ [an economic term meaning the lowest wage rate a worker is willing to accept] but now they are prepared to accept it,” says Sundar.

The third consequence is the loss of opportunity, he says. Informal workers used to dream about moving up to work in the formal economy, where they would secure a salaried job with social security, paid holidays and health benefits.

“That dream is now beyond their grasp. Not only are there no jobs, the lucky few to be permanent workers are holding on to their jobs for dear life, leaving no scope for daily wage earners to move up,” he says.

Source link

Global Affairs

‘Destitution is almost inevitable’: Afghan refugees in Greece left homeless by failed system | Migration and development

Avatar

Published

on

Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli, 70, looks at his five-year-old granddaughter, sitting on the floor next to him watching cartoons on a phone. They live in a two-bedroom flat in a suburb of Athens. “Even tomorrow, we don’t know what will happen to us,” he says.

The former judge and legal adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Justice, who had a role in putting together the 2004 Afghan constitution, is facing eviction with his family, including his three grandchildren. This is in line with regulations in Greece, which state that once someone has obtained refugee status, they must leave the accommodation provided for them within 30 days.

Since being evacuated to Greece last October, the family have been in limbo, hoping to join relatives in the UK and grieving for lives left behind in Kabul. Due to Rasooli’s high-profile work, as well as that of his daughter, a former journalist, and his son-in-law Fazel Sultani, a prosecutor at the Ministry of Justice, the family had gone into hiding after the Taliban stormed Kabul.

“We had a lot of problems, because the Taliban were saying if somebody had worked with NGOs or international organisations we’d be killed. It was very difficult for me to be there; we went to hide in a few places until we got evacuated,” says Rasooli. He scrolls through his phone to show photos of his home, pointing out books on the shelves, including legal texts he wrote, which he has been told have since been destroyed by Taliban soldiers.

The family has tried to make the best of things and the children are in Greek schools, but until recently, Rasooli feared to go outside in case his papers were checked. They had to wait until this month to receive asylum seeker ID cards.

They struggled to navigate a catch-22 system whereby access to rent subsides requires having a rental contract, while landlords will not rent without proof of the subsidies.

Rasooli and his family are not alone, says Minos Mouzourakis, an advocacy officer at Refugee Support Aegean (RSA). “Destitution is almost inevitable for refugees recognised in Greece. Expecting them to promptly leave accommodation despite exclusion from social welfare and protracted, often year-long, delays in renewing documents is a policy choice breaching the country’s legal obligations according to jurisdictions across the continent,” he says.

Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens, Greece.
Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens. Photograph: Anna Pantelia/The Guardian

RSA has gathered more than 100 testimonies of recognised refugees in Greece who have turned to jobs such as collecting waste cardboard around Athens to sell to recycling companies. For such work they may earn between €10 and €20 a day.

RSA has recorded cases where refugees returned to Greece have faced destitution, such as Soraya* and Somaya* from Afghanistan who were sent back from Sweden in June this year. They are now reliant on soup kitchens and solidarity networks and must wait until January 2023 to get identification documents. Some courts, in countries such as Germany, have halted returns of refugees to Greece judging that they are likely to face inhumane or degrading treatment.

“The situation for recognised refugees in Greece is dire. It is commonplace that people granted protection status in Greece face destitution and homelessness following their positive asylum decision,” says Lucy Alper, a legal coordinator with Refugee Legal Support in Athens.

“The only integration programme, Helios, funded by the EU and implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is not fit for purpose. Many people enrolled in the Helios programme cannot access the limited rental subsidies offered, as they must first open a Greek bank account, pay a deposit on a flat and sign a house contract via the government’s online platform. Barriers are at every turn, exacerbated by the bureaucracy of the Greek asylum system.

“Notwithstanding these failures, people are being evicted from their accommodation. There is no safety net,” says Alper.

The IOM says 19,000 people had leased an apartment so far, which spoke to the “feasibility of the requirements”. They added there are, “all the necessary services to support recognised refugees in finding and leasing apartments … IOM in coordination with its partners ensures support and interpretation in issuing all required documents … whenever obstacles are encountered, targeted support is provided to solve possible problems.” It says it had no “recorded cases” of difficulties from those who applied within the appropriate time frame due to bureaucracy.

Rasooli hopes to go to the UK under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) but has a rejection that is under review. His initial rejection letter, seen by the Guardian, states that since he has asylum in Greece, he will have access to medical care and is in relative safety – facts disputed by NGOs who have documented the precariousness of life for refugees in the country.

For now, the family remains in Athens, hopeful for an offer of an apartment for the short term. Nothing about the future is certain.

The Greek Migration Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

* Names have been changed to protect identities

Source link

Continue Reading

Global Affairs

Europe Lost Russia as Energy Supplier, Russian Envoy Says

Avatar

Published

on

https://sputniknews.com/20221130/europe-lost-russia-as-energy-supplier-russian-envoy-says-1104846298.html

feedback@sputniknews.com

+74956456601

MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“

2022

Sputnik International

feedback@sputniknews.com

+74956456601

MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“

News

en_EN

Sputnik International

feedback@sputniknews.com

+74956456601

MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“

https://cdnn1.img.sputniknews.com/img/07e6/0b/15/1104507900_252:0:2981:2047_1920x0_80_0_0_0a4993de5254e30f835339011b72a629.jpg

Sputnik International

feedback@sputniknews.com

+74956456601

MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“

russia, international energy agency (iea), mikhail ulyanov, envoy, energy supplies

russia, international energy agency (iea), mikhail ulyanov, envoy, energy supplies

VIENNA (Sputnik) – Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier.

“Isn’t it vice versa: Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier to get the opportunity to buy the US LNG at a much higher price? Great achievement!” Ulyanov wrote on Twitter.

It was his response to a user post that quoted the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) saying Russia had lost Europe as its largest energy client “forever.”

IEA chief Fatih Birol said in October that Russia had lost the European oil and gas market forever and would face a drop in production. The West stepped up sanctions pressure on Russia over Ukraine, which led to higher prices for electricity, fuel and food in Europe and the United States.

A view shows gas metering units at the Gazprom's Amur Gas Processing Plant near the town of Svobodny, Amur Region, Russia. The plant was launched on June 9, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.11.2022

Russia Determined Not to Sell Energy Resources to Those Who Set Price Caps: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said cheap and reliable Russian energy resources were Europe’s competitive advantage, and even a partial rejection of them already had a negative impact on its economy and residents. The US, pushing through the EU’s complete rejection of Russian energy carriers and other resources, is leading to the de-industrialization of Europe, he said.

Putin, commenting on the West’s idea to limit prices for Russian energy resources, said Russia would not supply anything abroad if this was contrary to its own interests.

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Russia would not supply oil to countries that set any price cap. He added that such restrictions were interference in market tools, and Moscow was prepared to work with consumers ready for market conditions.



Source link

Continue Reading

Global Affairs

Kirchner: Argentina’s vice-president blasts ‘firing squad’ overseeing her corruption trial | International

Avatar

Published

on

“Last words…” said Cristina Fernández de Kirchner from her office in the Senate, staring at the camera. She paused for a second, smiled and delivered the line she had already envisaged as a headline. “Never has a judicial term been so appropriate to define what this court is: it is a firing squad.”

Her words were aimed at three federal judges who on December 6 will decide whether she is guilty of leading an alleged scheme to divert state funds through public works contracts. The prosecution wants Fernández de Kirchner to spend 12 years behind bars and be permanently barred from holding public office.

Fernández de Kirchner, 69, has been charged with “illicit association” and “aggravated fraudulent administration” in connection with a corruption case involving 12 other defendants and known in Argentina as the Vialidad Case. The 51 contracts under scrutiny were awarded in the province of Santa Cruz, the political cradle of Kirchnerism, to companies owned by a friend of the Kirchners, Lázaro Baez, over a 12-year period (Baez has since been sentenced to 12 years in prison for money laundering). Prosecutors said many contracts were inflated and some were never carried out. They have estimated that the scheme cost the state around $1 billion. The defendants include officials accused of collecting bribes and businesspeople suspected of paying them.

But the vice-president claims to be a victim of political persecution.

“A government that was democratically elected three times is not an ‘illicit association’,” she said, alluding to the government of her late husband Néstor Kirchner (2003 -2007) and her own two terms in the president’s office between 2007 and 2015.

On Tuesday, the vice-president spoke for less than 20 minutes, a far cry from the long speeches she has given in the past in court. At her first hearing on December 2, 2019, she claimed to be the victim of a case in which the sentence had been decided ahead of time. The ultimate goal of the trial, according to the vice-president, is to remove her from politics and erode Peronism, the movement she represents.

“The sentence is written, but I never thought it would be so badly written,” said Fernández de Kirchner, accusing the two lead prosecutors in the case, Diego Luciani and Sergio Mola, of spreading lies about her. To reinforce the idea of the firing squad, she recalled the assassination attempt against her outside her house in early September.

Kirchner has maintained throughout the trial that the entire investigation against her is a set-up by the opposition to imprison her. Her lawyers have uploaded a document entitled “The Twenty Lies of the Vialidad Case” to social media.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!