The mass exodus of more than 1 million migrant workers from Kuwait and Iraq has caused enormous hardships for developing nations in Africa and Asia whose economies had depended on the money these workers had sent home, according to a special report by the International Labor Organization.
The United Nations agency said it has been unable to cope with numerous requests from Third World nations for help in processing claims for unpaid wages and lost savings as a result of Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait. The ILO said it has received such requests from Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Yemen.
For many poor nations, the wage "remittances" from workers who have gone abroad in search of better pay have become an integral part of national revenue.
Egypt, for example, counts on wage remittances for 40 percent of its total imports. In Bangladesh, wage remittances have accounted for 24.5 percent of the nation's imports. The country with the greatest dependence on the income of its workers abroad is Yemen, where remittances have made up 63.3 percent of the nation's imports, according to the ILO. The agency's report did not show remittances from Kuwait and Iraq separately as a percentage of total imports.
The ILO report said that before Iraq's invasion, there were approximately 2.6 million foreign workers in Iraq and Kuwait plus an estimated 700,000 dependents. Two months later, based on the last verifiable figures available, the number of workers and dependents who had fled the two countries was 1.5 million.
The report showed the following breakdown by countries of origin of the workers and their dependents who were in Iraq and Kuwait at the time of the invasion: Bangladesh, 90,000; Egypt, 1.1 million; India, 181,000; Jordan/Palestine, 537,000; Pakistan, 95,000; the Philippines, 55,000; Sri Lanka, 101,000; Sudan, 115,000; and Thailand 13,000. The ILO said workers from these countries had provided remittances of $12 billion, or 24 percent of the average imports of their home economies.
In addition, the ILO said, there had been another 327,000 foreign workers from other Arab and Asian nations as well as from Europe and the Americas.
Noting the surprise discovery that 16,000 Vietnamese were working in Iraq at the time of the invasion, the ILO said there were certain to be many more nationalities involved in Iraq than are now known. The Vietnamese were working in Iraq as part of a swap of skilled workers for oil.