Picture Credit: Annu Jalais
The migrant crisis that followed the pandemic was not just a failure of the government to understand migrant lives or public policy’s disconnect with their reality. Rather, it was a failure of public imagination. Despite the economy resting on the underpaid labour of scores of migrant workers, their lives remain invisible. Obscuring migrant workers' lives has become an effective reason for not granting them social security and denying them basic human rights. The shutting of borders and restrictions on mobility due to the pandemic meant migrant workers from coastal spaces across Indian Ocean countries, were stranded far from their coastal homes, often without access to paid labour and little access to social security.
Migrant workers have been moving between places historically. Yet, in the postcolonial world they are framed as illegitimate bodies. The lack of understanding of the lives of migrant workers has been reflected in the numerous news reports, academic as well as policy discourse. Their complex lives have been reduced to the binary templates of victimhood or capacity for endurance. This erasure of their existence outside this “crisis” mode is dehumanizing and alienating.
Locating itself in this gap, this project titled 'Migration Diaries' attempts to curate stories of migrants' lives and worlds beyond the binaries of tragedy and resilience, through a revisting of their experiences of the pandemic. As the project was designed keeping COVID restrictions in mind, we had to collaborate with collectives and organizations working on ground. We have been conducting workshops with our collaborators to build their capacity of collecting stories of migration. We hope to further contextualise these insights within broader academic, policy and popular discourses on distress migration.