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Read: Meet our Virtual Island Summit Ambassadors for 2020!

The United Nations reported that due to the pandemic, thousands of migrant workers worldwide are stranded away from their homes. While some are blocked from crossing borders, others are facing high risks of infections in their workplaces, including in places such as Kashmir, JamaicaSingapore, Andaman Islands, Australia, the Maldives and many others. For communities facing the collapse of tourism-driven economies, this can add an extra strain on resources.

Each situation has its particular nuances, and there are cases of people both stranded on islands or away from their home islands. In some cases, they may be stuck in cramped and congested quarters, preventing them from observing social distancing protocols and consequently making their vulnerability to COVID-19 infections much higher. For instance, migrant workers make up 25% of the total population of the Maldives. There have been accusations of workers having their documentation removed by employers, a situation that limits migrant workers from accessing quality health care. Other issues have been reported in Pacific and Caribbean countries.

Read: Isles of Scilly seasonal workers stranded due to pandemic

Furthermore, some island communities have a significant chunk of their labor force working abroad in countries that are hard hit by the pandemic - translating into layoffs and deportations. This is a huge toll on many of the island economies that depend, largely in part, on remittances sent from abroad. In a new report, the World Bank estimates that remittance flows to the Pacific and East Asia would drop by 13% from the shocks of the pandemic. Half of the 10 most remittance-dependent economies in the world are Pacific Island countries. In Tonga, over one-third of its GDP comes from remittance inflows.

Some governments are taking steps to support migrant workers. The Maldives has established a dedicated clinic for domestic migrant workers on Hulhumale island. The clinic doesn’t require migrants to present work permits or documentation before they’re examined. However, in New Zealand, the government has been criticized for failing to address the needs of Pacific Island workers stranded without jobs.

For the displaced island workers returning from countries that are hard hit by the pandemic, a different solution is needed. Kanni Wignaraja, head of UNDP in Asia-Pacific suggests that returnees could set up “new lines of business and small and medium scale enterprises”. She urged island authorities not to see returning migrants as a burden, but instead include them in public works programmes and any stimulus spending.

Sponsor: Find out more about sponsorship options for the Virtual Island Summit 2020!

Another proposal suggests that Australian and New Zealand governments could allow seasonal workers from the Pacific to travel in order to meet the high demand from farmers to harvest fruit and vegetables. If initiated, this proposal could help employ many of the Pacific island nations’ workers who had to return from these places because of COVID19. However, this plan would require a "bubble" for travel between these larger countries and their smaller neighbours, which would need a much deeper policy alignment on public health.

What else can islands do to help their economies bounce back? Please let us know of more examples in the members-only Island Innovation Facebook Group and LinkedIn Group.

Thank you for reading,
James Ellsmoor

With thanks to Amanda Watson of Australia National University for her contributions to this article.

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Webinar Recording: The Economic Future Of The Caribbean
- Life After COVID-19

The Economic Future of the Caribbean: Life After COVID-19’, the second webinar in our series of webinars, was a great success, with in-depth presentations from our diverse group of speakers, an excellent discussion conducted by our moderator and a range of thought-provoking questions and comments from our attendees.

Join the final week of UOG's 2020 virtual conference series
on island sustainability.

Building Tobago post-covid19

Dr. Anjani Ganase, marine scientist, weighs in on the outlook for Tobago in the face of climate change and covid19. And hopes that Tobago would be the model for the rest of the Caribbean and small islands around the world. 
Read More

UNCIVILIZED: A Film by Michael Lees
Uncivilized, is an adventure, as much as it is a meditation on the necessities of a good life – a timely question in an age of climate change and over-consumption. Things take a turn as Michael experiences life in Dominica through Hurricane Maria.

Energy Stories

Interesting stories about energy from the world's islands:

Are transmission lines the new battle front for renewables?

A battle is shaping up over a 200MW wind farm in Tasmania, but it’s not the prospect of turbines that is upsetting some locals. Read more.

A Cuban lifeline to CARICOM

Cuba has been able to supply capable bodies that can test, treat, and provide care to those in need. As COVID-19 is expected to affect countries in waves, Caribbean public health systems will benefit from Cuban medical personnel - this will fill the void left by the lack of support for the region by the world's superpowers. Read more.

Other stories worth sharing

A selection of stories relevant to innovation and sustainable development from around the world:

  • Mauritius: promoting sustainability through perseverance and policy.
  • Coronavirus: Call for islands to test, trace, isolate.
  • As Latin America and the Caribbean seek to reopen economies, Jamaica offers a cautionary tale.
  • Barbados PM calls for the implementation of global leadership initiatives.
  • Virus-free Pacific islands weigh risks of reopening to tourists.
  • What we do now will shape New Zealand’s future.
  • Antigua - Barbuda to consider new guidelines on immigration and tourism revitalization.

Planning approval sought for hydrogen facility

Orkney is the “ideal location” for a project which could see the islands take another exciting step in the quest to become carbon neutral. Read more.

Dominica’s environmentally regenerative gastronomy

As Dominica aims to become the world's first climate-resilient nation through renewables, organic agriculture and sustainable infrastructure, Secret Bay is doing its part to innovate and support government initiatives. Read more.

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