The coronavirus outbreak is unreasonably affecting the world’s most susceptible. Among them are the 70 million displaced people – the internally displaced, asylum seekers, and the refugees – and this included undocumented migrants and migrant workers. Most of these women, men, and kids are staying in regular as well as irregular camps, detention centers, and reception facilities. Some are living on the streets in some informal home arrangements. Still, others do not have access to essential needs, like proper healthcare and sanitized water, lastly, a lot of them do not have any legal status at all.
The pandemic aggravates and is worsened by unpleasant living situations.
In settings like the ones mentioned above, even precautionary measures are not always doable. It is difficult to tell them to protect themselves when they do not have access to clean water or soap. How can we tall them to self-isolate when they are staying in crowded tents, along with 10 others? Indeed, physical distancing is not easy to do at all for these people who live in small, jam-packed homes with several family members. And worst is, they need to line up to get water and food, which undeniably heightens their risk of getting infected.
In many setups, refugees live in fear and anxiety, oftentimes confronted by the risk of abuse, arrest, or stigma of being disease carriers because of the existing racisms. Additionally, in a lot of regions spread across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is being abused, using it as a reason to punish refugees and other displaced groups, even those who wish to help them. There are nearly 170 states that completely or incompletely closed borders to stop or prevent further spread of the virus, and 57 of these don’t make any exclusion for those seeking refuge.
If you want to help in your own little ways to protect these vulnerable people, here are some things you can do.
- You strive to work on making sure that the pandemic is not used as a reason to implement life-threatening migration control laws. You must be aware that governments should not use this global crisis as an excuse to impose further restraining migration control policies and avoid international responsibilities to these vulnerable refugees and migrants. There are serious challenges that are confronting all of us as we live with the risk of being part of those who have become carriers or worse, who have died because of it. However, protecting the wellbeing of everyone in your own country and doing your obligation towards these displaced individuals are not in any way different at all.
- Ensure that human rights are honored. The government should not use the coronavirus emergency health guidelines to mark migrants, refugees, and migrants. All limitations related to human rights must be required and respected based on scientific proof, not enforced discriminatorily or illogically. All data related to the pandemic must be reviewed and decided upon with respect to human dignity.
- Refugees and other displaced groups that are considered high risk must be moved as soon as possible. In other countries, governments and non-profit organizations call for the evacuation of individuals and groups that are most at risk. These are the seniors and those with respiratory illnesses, diabetes, and other existing medical conditions. They are also making efforts in decongesting refugee camps or tents, along with moving unaccompanied minors and sick kids to other neighboring states. Allowing these people to stay in cramped and dirty informal homes was and will always be irresponsible.
- Closures, quarantines, and lockdowns can’t be unreasonably and discriminatorily enforced. Measures must be applied fairly to everyone without any form of racism, discrimination, or stigma. Healthcare, basic needs like water and food, and psychological and social support must be provided to those who are quarantined. Ultimately, mass quarantines should not be allowed as much as possible.
We all need to protect access to healthcare for everyone. The pandemic control guidelines must not apply at the expense of access to appropriate healthcare. This implies that border closures should not hinder the necessary medical and other essential supplies from entering countries. Finally, governments must make sure that those constraints in informal homes, reception centers, and detention facilities do not stop refugees, and all kinds of people for that matter, from getting the healthcare they need.