ISLAMABAD, Pakistan 

Nearly a million Pakistanis have been sent abroad for work by their government over the past two years, a senior official has said for the occasion of World Migrants Day.

Despite the novel coronavirus pandemic, Pakistani expatriates were able to send a record $21.84 billion in remittances back to their country in the previous financial year of 2019-20, Syed Zulfikar Abass Bukhari, the special assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan on overseas Pakistanis said on Thursday.

With the total rising 16.73 percent since 2014-15, most of these remittances came from Gulf countries, Bukhari explained, adding that agreements had been reached over the last two years with various countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and others.

In a separate statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of migrants lost their jobs and faced challenges in different countries.

“As a country of destination, Pakistan continues to host millions of regular as well as irregular migrants from neighboring and regional countries. Pakistanis have always shown generosity and hospitality towards all migrants without any discrimination,” said the ministry.

Highlighting the challenges migrants face, the statement urged other countries hosting migrants to ensure their fair and ethical treatment, including access to health care and social protection without discrimination.

“Migrant workers have also been exposed to increased hardship due to xenophobia, discrimination, disinformation and the use of stigmatizing narratives,” it added, urging international cooperation to improve migrants’ well-being and working conditions, as well as ensure their integration and protection from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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