Moldova Braces for Influx
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The tiny Eastern European country of Moldova is bracing itself for a large return of overseas migrant workers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Almost one million of the country’s 3.5 million citizens reside abroad, and the remittances they send home accounts for roughly 16 per cent of the country’s GDP, or around US$ 1.2 billion a year.
They often work in low-skilled jobs in the catering, agricultural, entertainment, or hospitality industries. Up to 70,000 of them have little job security, working without formal contracts.
They live in high pandemic risk countries such as Italy, Spain, France and Israel. Facing job losses, unable to pay rent, and lacking adequate health insurance, they have been hardest hit by the wave of factory closures, temporary layoffs, and the almost complete shut-down of tourism across Europe.
Lars Johan Lonnback, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Moldova is deeply concerned about the health, social and economic aspects of the current situation.
“We have to support the returning labour migrants as they will be coming from very hard situations,” he says. “They have lost their jobs and their incomes, and this makes them highly vulnerable. It is very important that these returning migrants are not stigmatized in any way.”