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The COVID-19 blame game threatens us all

zard1_Diego CupoloNurPhoto via Getty Images_greeceturkeyrefugeescoronavirusDiego Cupolo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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Despite the claims of nationalist politicians, refugees and forced migrants were not the source of COVID-19’s spread. Blaming these vulnerable groups damns them twice – and exposes everyone to even greater risks.

NEW YORK – As the new coronavirus, COVID-19, nears pandemic status, a second scourge has followed in its path: a virulent racism that scapegoats refugees, asylum seekers, and foreigners more generally as the cause of the outbreak. This is not only false and cruel, but also dangerous. Politicizing the crisis and stigmatizing whole populations risks turning fiction into fact by stoking fear and driving the disease underground, making it more difficult to manage. Have we forgotten the central lesson of the HIV/AIDS pandemic?

Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini was among the first to target migrants in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak – and, as usual, without any evidence. Salvini called on Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to resign after the government allowed a boat with 276 Africans rescued at sea to dock in Sicily. Arguing for “armor-plated” borders, he said that Conte had failed to “defend Italy and Italians.”

Asylum seekers had nothing to do with the spread of the virus in Italy. In fact, an Italian visiting Algiers is believed to have been responsible for one of the first two African cases of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, Salvini is not alone. Nationalist leaders across Europe are using the crisis to close borders and even to call for an end to the European Union’s Schengen Area of border-free travel. This reactionary chorus includes Marine Le Pen in France, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and leaders of far-right parties in Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and Austria. And in the United States, President Donald Trump’s administration has said that it is “very strongly considering” closing the country’s southern border in a bid to control the spread of the disease.

READ  EU turns its back on migrants in distress

Even more cynically, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently opened his country’s borders and bused over 10,000 Syrian refugees to the frontiers of Greece and Bulgaria. Erdoğan aims to use the specter of a rerun of the 2015 refugee crisis – amplified by the COVID-19 threat – to wrest concessions from the EU.

The conservative Greek government responded by closing the country’s borders, suspending asylum processing, and summarily deporting arriving asylum seekers. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis invoked an EU directive allowing member states to elevate border security if public health is at risk. “We will do whatever it takes to prevent the appearance of the virus – particularly there [the Greek islands],” Mitsotakis said. Hungary also has blocked access to asylum in recent days. Predictably, the EU – which has failed either to craft an effective asylum policy of its own or to provide adequate support to frontline countries such as Turkey – now faces another political crisis.

But the real Achilles heel in Greece, as in other countries hosting refugees, are the abysmal conditions in which asylum seekers are forced to live. More than 40,000 migrants now languish in Greek island camps that are designed to house a small fraction of that number. The camps lack the most basic health care and sanitation, with one toilet for hundreds of people in some locations.

READ  The challenge of helping child refugees in Libya overcome trauma

These conditions exist five years after the Mediterranean refugee crisis, and in an EU member state. Conditions on the other side of the Mediterranean – in Libya and Lebanon –  are even direr.

Moreover, the crisis could become much worse. COVID-19 is spreading fast in Iran, which hosts a million Afghan refugees. The country’s health system is considered to be one of the best in the Middle East, and yet it is struggling to cope.

In Lebanon, by contrast, public-health provision is weak, and refugees face rampant discrimination. Iraq, Syria, and Yemen have fragmented, underfunded health-care systems that have been crippled by war. And millions of Syrians are now on the move again as a result of the horrific Russian aerial bombing of Idlib, fueling even more pressure on Turkey’s borders. It is these populations, already weakened by the effects of conflict, and now forced to flee and endure desperate conditions in the process, that have the most to fear and lose from COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the targeting of border-crossing migrants is morphing into broader attacks on diversity. In many countries, people of Asian descent are reporting racist attacks, and feel fearful living and working in communities that they used to think of as home. “The government is helping the spread of the virus,” asserted a recent headline in the right-wing Italian daily Libero. “For Conte and his scientists, racism is the disease, not coronavirus.” And in the US, Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson claimed that liberals would “let you die before they admitted that diversity is not our strength.”

READ  Refugees International holds Welcoming Week September 16

Under international law, governments addressing public-health threats can adopt only measures that are supported by science, proportionate to the risks involved, and anchored in human rights, including the right to seek asylum and the prohibition of discrimination. Responses that stigmatize whole populations and disproportionately affect the most vulnerable are not only wrong, but also will fail to control the spread of disease.

Faced with the growing COVID-19 crisis, the international community should ensure that cities and states with large refugee and migrant populations have the necessary resources to serve all their residents. All health-care facilities should be free of immigration enforcement, and COVID-19 responses should not trigger any immigration enforcement.

Refugees and forced migrants were not the source of COVID-19’s spread. Blaming these vulnerable groups damns them twice – and exposes everyone to even greater risks. The history of epidemics shows that how we treat our most vulnerable populations determines the fate of us all.

Source: project-syndicate.org

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Nigerians in Spain say no to genocide

Nigerians resident in Spain have kicked against bad governance and brutalitalisation of innocent citizens by security operatives in Nigeria.

They are in solidarity with the #Endsars protesters.

The #Endsars protest  started by young Nigerians to say no to brutality, impunity and gruesome killings in the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the government in the country saw security operatives using live bullets on the protesters last week, October 21, 2020.

In a statement signed by Afolabi Oloko, the Nigerians in Spain said: “In every part  of the world, including Nigeria, we believe protesting is a fundamental right of all citizenry that we can exercise whenever we deem it fit as long as it is civil and devoid of violence but such is not the case in Nigeria where the young future of the country are murdered by their very own government just because they made demands that there must be a reform to the notorious Police department and that the country be reformed in general. Have they asked for too much from a responsible and responsive government?

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“It is so disheartening that after Ten days that the youth refused to back down they resorted to killing, maiming of their own future generations just because they asked and begged for good governance and good policing. It’s a shame that young people are being killed all around the cities of Nigeria from Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Abuja, Ondo , Benin, Porthacort just to mention a few. It was horrendous seeing over seventy people being murdered at night while still protesting unarmed peacefully in Lekki area of Lagos state. They organised by switching off the street light while they carried out their evil deed against defenceless young people of the country and also took away the CCTV. The commander-in-chief of the Armed forces in person of President Muhamodu Buhari must be tried at the International court for genocide against it’s own people.

“We the compatriots far away in Spain are with our young brothers and sister on the streets saying no to bad governance as you’re in our hearts and prayers. We support you in the just cause you’re are fighting. Fighting for one’s future should not be seen as an affront to the authorities, rather they should look inward and realise that the system is rotten and should be cleansed but not killing innocent young men on the streets with Army being deployed to take lives of vibrant and resourceful, frustrated and change hungry citizens.
“Today, we came out in multitude in solidarity with our compatriots back home to say #ENDSARS! #ENDBADGOVERNANCE #ENDPOLICEBRUTALITY #ENDCORUPTION #ENDTHEGENOCIDE”

READ  Displacement goes up by 100 percent as B' Faso crisis rages on

 

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ILO, IOM sign agreement to strengthen collaboration on migration governance

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) today signed an Agreement to create a framework for cooperation and collaboration to enhance the benefits of migration for all.

The framework includes joint support for improved migration governance, capacity building and policy coherence at national, regional and global levels. Other areas of work may also be developed.

The Agreement was signed by Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, and António Vitorino, the IOM Director-General, on Friday at the ILO Headquarters in Geneva.

Speaking after the signing ceremony, Ryder said, “this Agreement seals an important alliance between our two organizations. Together, we will be stronger and more effective in both fulfilling our individual mandates and in collaborating on areas that are crucial for reshaping the world of work so that it is more inclusive, equitable and sustainable.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a brutal impact on economies and societies. Vulnerable groups, particularly migrant workers and their families, are being disproportionately hit. There could be no better time to reinforce our partnership and combine our strengths, so that we can help countries and our constituents build back for a better future.”

READ  Refugees International holds Welcoming Week September 16

DG Vitorino said, “the agreement that we are signing today will help us further solidify our collaboration at the time when joint solutions are so much needed, with a pandemic that is hitting the most vulnerable the hardest. As we move towards post-pandemic recovery, we fully embrace the call to build a better world together, tapping into the added value of each partner. With ILO, we have much to co-create and we look forward to future cooperation within the broader UN family, with our partner governments, private sector and civil society.”

The new ILO-IOM Agreement builds on the agencies’ comparative advantages, expertise, and respective constituencies. By encouraging joint initiatives, the Agreement aims to strengthen international migration governance and boost cooperation, capacity building and joint advocacy to promote migrants’ rights and decent work opportunities.

By encouraging social dialogue, it will allow workers` and employers` organizations – who sit equally with governments in the ILO’s tripartite membership structure – to contribute to policy discussions.

READ  EU turns its back on migrants in distress

A workplan will be developed in the next six months to push forward the collaboration at global, regional and country levels and, more importantly, facilitate the implementation of the Agreement in the field, where both agencies are working directly with affected populations.

It will seek to enhance the agencies joint contribution to their member states, UN country teams, and societies to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Agreement will also allow the ILO and IOM to strengthen support for their respective constituencies in implementing the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM), and contribute to other global and regional migration policy fora and debates.

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Stop enslavement of Africans in other continents- Experts tell African leaders

The second international migration summit by the Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM) ended on Friday, October 16, 2020,  at the Pensioners FM, Ibadan, Oyo State, with a call to  African leaders to deliver good governance to halt continued enslavement of the Africans in other continents through irregular migration.

The conference themed: Migration governance and media strategy for development   with physical and virtual presentations was attended by hundreds of journalists and other participants across the world.

President of JIFORM, Ajibola Abayomi, in his remark after signing a memorandum of understanding with the Diaspora Innovation Institute (DII), US, on training and investment opportunities for journalists, said the global media body with over 200 journalists spread across the continents as parts of the fallouts of the summit would produce glossary of terminologies for over 10,000 journalists and media houses beyond Africa.

Speaking at the occasion, Governor Oluwaseyi Makinde of Oyo State hailed JIFORM’s  advocacy and identified poverty as the root cause of irregular migration pledging commitment to reverse the tide through good governance.

Represented by Barrister Olubunmi Ogunniran, Director General of Legal Administration, Oyo State Ministry of Justice, the governor said apart from rescuing trafficked indigenes of the state abroad and creating diaspora unit, he had inaugurated a task force against human trafficking, sexual offenders with prosecute department and further engagement of the youths through economic activities.

READ  The challenge of helping child refugees in Libya overcome trauma

Minister of Labour Sierra Leone, Mr Alpha Timbo; Ghana Ambassador to Egypt, Lebanon and Sudan, Nii Okai Hammond, and the United Nations Youth Ambassador (Ghana), Lilian Addo, all praised what they tagged courageous movement by JIFORM and promised to support the body in its quest to further spread its advocacies.

Chairman of the summit, Patrick Lumumba,  rued the faulty labour and trade laws in Africa limiting development and called on the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) for ntervention to remove migration barriers causing undue frictions between Ghana and Nigeria ditto for the African Union to end the xenophobic attacks in South Africa against other African nationals.

He blamed the crisis on misapplication of resources and corruption among African leaders and urged them to retrace their steps to save the youths from desperate migration to other continents through the desert and the Mediterranean Sea.

Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Matters, Tolulope Akande-Sadipe lauded JIFORM’s efforts to eradicate irregular migration and vowed to rescue and end the suffering of stranded Nigerians lured through human trafficking to the Middle East and other Arabian nations through collaborations.

READ  Conflicts, disasters displace 12 million children in 2019- UNICEF

Member of African Union Advisory Committee on Labour Migration, (Ghana) Dr Princess Ocansey urged the African nations to end the Kafala bilateral agreement entered into with some Middle East countres that permitted the en-slavery of mostly African women.

“African leaders must wake up to save the youths from deadly work they are being subjected and replace that with decent work. The Kafala system is a shame and very dehumanizing” she said.

Former Canada Minister of Immigration, Gerry Weiner while delivering his presentation urged the African youths to acquit themselves with the right processes to tap into numerous diaspora opportunities in Canada and elsewhere.

Weiner, who had 12 years working experience in Africa, said only safe and regular migration, would guarantee the actualization of the desire to be part of  economic activities in the world.

The summit had participation from several international speaker that Prince Akin Ojomo from DII; included Johanna Mac from Erich Brost Institute, Germany; Barrister Samuel Adeusi and Ms Omotola Fawunmi both from the US; International Organization for Migration (IOM), Nigeria and Gambia; Rescue African Mission; Synergy Rescue Mission; ThisLebanon Lebanon; Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM); National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP); Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS); Ghana Immigration Service; Diaspora Innovation Institute, New York, America; and Ghana Immigration Service.

READ  Displacement goes up by 100 percent as B' Faso crisis rages on

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