Stranded Myanmar Migrants in Jordan Poised to be Flown Home Amid COVID-19

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 15 July 2020

Yangon – Myanmar’s relief flights from Jordan are awaiting landing approval to bring home about 400 stranded nationals, according to Myanmar’s Embassy in neighboring Israel.

Myanmar has no diplomatic mission in Jordan.

In late June, several hundred migrants in Jordan told the media they were facing hardships after months of being trapped in the desert kingdom without work due to COVID-19.

An embassy official in Tel Aviv told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that around 3,500 migrants from Myanmar had been employed at approximately six Jordanian factories.

Around 400 workers who finished their contracts have been stranded because of coronavirus travel restrictions since March.

As of July 14, Jordan reported 1,183 COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The embassy said it had already arranged the relief flights after receiving the approval of Myanmar’s government.

The first flight is due to fly on July 18 and return with 140 migrants, followed by a second flight on July 23.

According to the embassy official, Jordanian government approval is still needed to bring home the stranded nationals.

He added that governments grant landing approval after considering the COVID-19 situation and the flight routes in relation to their national interests.

He added that Myanmar had arranged Myanmar Airways International flights but was waiting for landing approval.

According to the embassy, 30 percent of the migrants from Myanmar are from two factories who are facing worse hardships than those at other businesses. They have asked to return home, he said.

The embassy official said those who had chosen to abandon social security refunds are listed as the first priority to return home out of the 400 stranded nationals.

Many of migrants have worked in the country for several years and are waiting for considerable social security refunds.

Some of the workers are willingly giving up their social security payments as the amount of money being promised is not considerable. So they decided to leave the payments and go back home.

Employees at the Camel Textile International Cooperation garment factory in Jordan told the Irrawaddy on Tuesday that around 800 out of 1,700 migrants have been made unemployed because of COVID-19.

Ma Mar Mar Hlaing, 27, from Ayeyarwady Region, who has been stranded for four months after her job contract ended, said on Tuesday: “I am so happy since many workers, including me, are now listed on the second relief flight. I can’t believe it.”

The embassy has asked workers to follow COVID-19 instructions and told them they would be quarantined in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports has instructed all returnees to stay at the government’s quarantine centers or hotels for 21 days and then to isolate at home for an additional seven days.

Since April 30, Myanmar has arranged 56 relief flights and brought home over 8,000 stranded nationals from more than 10 countries, including India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, the UK, US and UAE, according to the Ministry of International Cooperation.

International cooperation minister U Kyaw Tin said during a video conference with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday that Myanmar will arrange 13 relief flights in August to bring home an estimated 1,800 stranded nationals.

As of Wednesday morning, Myanmar’s health ministry has reported 337 COVID-19 cases, including six deaths and 261 recoveries.

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