In March 2020, a national lockdown was imposed in India in response to COVID-19. The lockdown left migrant labourers in the cities without jobs and housing. Thousands of desperate people tried to go back to their villages but mass transportation was shut down. Many who tried to walk the long distances home collapsed along the way; some lost their lives. For the people who made it to their villages, the future remains uncertain. They have lost their livelihood with no way to support themselves and their dependents. Migrant workers also face a new kind of xenophobia from the general population, one brought about by the fear of COVID-19. This is the reality they now face.

In response to this crisis, the Indian Social Institute (ISI), an institution of the Jesuit Conference of South Asia (JCSA), launched a joint COVID-19 Relief and Response initiative known as the #V4 Migrants Campaign. This project covers eight states in India and focuses on supporting migrant workers, daily wage earners and others impacted by the pandemic.

Canadian Jesuits International supports ISI as they help people meet their needs and find opportunities for their future livelihood. ISI helps migrant workers, travelling to their home provinces, arrive safely. ISI also offers transition help to those who remain in cities. The help includes food, health care, safe shelter, transportation costs, accompaniment, and psycho-social support for the workers and their families. This support is much needed as several months after the initial lockdown, there are fewer work opportunities and they are also paid less.

The project provides basic necessities to 6,000 households: migrant workers, landless and temporary labourers, women who are the sole wage earners of their families, daily wage earners, the elderly and the homeless. They also provide training for 600 community volunteers as para-health workers. Their advocacy campaign highlights the problems and issues faced by migrants, especially now that the workers are unable to raise their voices against injustices due to new pandemic protocols.

Other CJI-supported projects in ASIA

Cambodia – Jesuit Service Cambodia
Metta Karuna social services and scholarships
India – Gandhi Ashram
Education and music training for poor children
India – Hayden Hall
Organization and empowerment of poor marginalized women
India – Human Life Development and Research Centre (HLDRC)
Livelihood support and capacity building
India – Jesu Ashram
Healthcare facility and nursing school for poor women
India – Lok Manch
Community organizing for access to basic rights
Skills training and organic agriculture for local villagers
Lebanon – JRS Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
Education support for Syrian refugees
Nepal – Moran Memorial School
School for vulnerable children
Nepal – St. Xavier’s School
Education for underprivileged youth

Banner photo: Jesuits and volunteers deliver relief goods to migrant workers affected by COVID-19 in Kerala, India. Credit: Shin Kallungal SJ.