January 23, 2021

Exploitation of migrant workers has increased during pandemic, report says

An advocacy group is calling for full and permanent immigration status for all migrants as it releases a report detailing the alleged abuses suffered by hundreds of racialized migrant domestic workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Migrant Rights Network says the pandemic has worsened conditions for care workers, who have had to deal with increasing labour exploitation, stolen wages and stress.

The group released its report, Behind Closed Doors: Exposing Migrant Care Worker Exploitation During COVID-19, on Wednesday. It was based on more than 200 surveys that were filled out by migrant care workers across Canada.

More than one in three survey respondents reported losing their jobs during COVID-19. Of those who lost work, a third reported ongoing problems in accessing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or Employment Insurance (EI).

For those who kept working during the pandemic, nearly one in two reported longer hours of work, said the Migrant Rights Network. More than 40 per cent of respondents also said they were not paid for any extra hours of work, averaging $6,552 in unpaid wages per worker over the last six months, according to the report.

The network says lack of permanent resident status makes it difficult for workers to assert their rights. Permanent residency would give workers “the ability to leave a bad job and make a complaint without fear of reprisals,” the report says.

In an online petition, the group calls for a “single-tier immigration system, where everyone in Canada has the same rights.”

“All migrants, refugees, students, workers and undocumented people in the country must be regularized and given full immigration status now without exception. All migrants arriving in the future must do so with full and permanent immigration status.”

The report makes a series of recommendations aimed at improving housing, health care and employment conditions, as well as immediately granting permanent residency to workers.

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