Connect with us

News

Haven and hell: How the EU should protect refugees during the covid-19 crisis


Haven and hell: How the EU should protect refugees during the covid-19 crisis

Commentary

Even as it comes under intense pressure during the current crisis, the EU should not fail the most vulnerable displaced persons.

The covid-19 crisis has overshadowed the precarious situation of many refugees in the European Union and its neighbourhood, as well as those further afield who are trying to reach Europe. Only a short while ago, the escalating conflict in Idlib and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to open the Turkey-Greece border made migration a top priority of European leaders once more. Although the EU was still working on overdue reforms of its asylum and migration system, and needed to agree on a fair distribution of refugees between member states, key European leaders had at least signalled their intent to relocate the most vulnerable refugees from overcrowded camps – known as “hotspots” – on Greece’s islands. Covid-19, however, has abruptly halted these efforts.

On 16 March, the death of a child in a fire in Moria refugee camp – which hosts around 20,000 people despite having been designed for less than 3,000 – demonstrated the hazards facing those who live in these facilities. Since then, with covid-19 spreading to almost every part of the world, the United Nations and NGOs have warned that overcrowded refugee camps are particularly vulnerable to an outbreak of the virus – with uncontrollable consequences. Due to the nature of the crisis, it is not only the well-being and dignity of the camps’ inhabitants at stake, but also that of the local population, who have only limited access to medical services.

The impact of the coronavirus on refugees goes beyond the imminent risk of infection. The crisis has prompted European states to delay the implementation of their recent decision to receive the most vulnerable refugees. This includes the relocation of 1,600 unaccompanied refugees to Germany and other EU countries, which have temporarily closed their borders. The cancellation of almost all flights across Europe has also contributed to the halt of resettlement operations, including those of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

READ  Dozens of migrants die in 30 days 

The covid-19 crisis has initially reinforced a trend towards national solutions and limited EU-wide coordination. This could seriously undermine the bloc’s already fragile concept of European sovereignty, unless EU member states start to act together in containing the consequences of the crisis. Populists across Europe have rejoiced at border closures and limitations on access for asylum seekers, whom they have systematically demonised for years. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has claimed there is a “link between coronavirus and illegal migration”. The Alternative for Germany has said the “myth of borders that cannot be closed is proven wrong”, while a handful of right-wing extremists have held a demonstration at the Brandenburg Gate under a banner reading “save our borders”.

As European governments try to protect their populations, the resulting restrictions on movement and access hit refugees hard. While refugees still have a legal right to apply for asylum, border closures and the near-stasis of European asylum agencies prevent them from doing so in practice. And NGOs across Europe, as well as their rescue operations in the Mediterranean, are running at minimum capacity as volunteers stay at home due to the coronavirus. Finally, with the world potentially facing years of recession, covid-19 could have a devastating impact on financial support for already-underfunded NGO and UNHCR operations.

READ  IOM commends United States’ inclusion of migrants in COVID-19 vaccine roll-out

Even as it comes under intense pressure during the current crisis, the EU should not fail the most vulnerable displaced persons. The bloc – including the European Commission and willing member states – should demonstrate that it can protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, partly by equipping the authorities and aid agencies with the means to handle the crisis. This emergency response should centre on the following three steps.

As shown by the large-scale operations that EU member states have launched to bring their citizens home, relocation is possible even in the current crisis.

Firstly, the authorities should immediately evacuate hotspots to prevent a disastrous outbreak of covid-19 there, as requested by the European parliament’s civil liberties, justice, and home affairs committee. Ideally, they should relocate asylum seekers to decentralised accommodation on the mainland (including quarantine facilities, if needed) – as the UN demandedbefore the threat of the pandemic became imminent. Until it makes progress with relocation, Europe needs to urgently improve conditions in the camps and expand medical capacities there. In this, the EU and its member states must support Greece and Italy, whose economies are under particular strain in the crisis. Countries such as Germany have indicated that they are ready to continue with relocation plans even during the crisis – and should do so as soon as possible, to protect the most vulnerable refugees. As shown by the large-scale operations that EU member states have launched to bring their citizens home, relocation is possible even in the current crisis.

READ  Violence in Burkina Faso forces Malian refugees to return home

Secondly, the EU should provide an emergency humanitarian package to dramatically increase financial support for agencies such as UNHCR and the World Health Organisation – which face significant budget cuts. This would address their immediate funding needs in protecting refugees from covid-19 and improving their overall living conditions. The effort could be financed by the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and the EU’s other funding instruments, as it is in the bloc’s urgent interest to prevent the disease from spreading in refugee camps in its neighbourhood.

Finally, the EU should counter fake news on, and attempts to demonise, refugees and asylum seekers. European leaders need to stress that the ongoing isolation of asylum seekers in camps in Europe creates broader risks for EU citizens. Ultimately, covid-19 provides another a stark reminder that the EU needs a common policy capable of protecting refugees. Substantive action in a time of crisis would signal that such a policy is possible.

Support Voice for African Migrants


Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
* are compulsory
cardlogos
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Solve : *
29 + 28 =


News

Biden reverses Trump’s travel ban on Nigeria, Yemen, Eritrea, others

Mr Biden has now nullified the entry ban on citizens from over a dozen countries, including Eritrea, Yemen, Nigeria, and Sudan.

Newly sworn-in American president, Joe Biden, on Wednesday, issued an executive order nullifying a travel ban imposed on citizens of some Muslim-majority countries by his predecessor, Donald Trump.

Before his exit from White House on Wednesday, Mr Trump-led administration was notorious for its harsh policies against immigrants and asylum seekers, one of his many election campaign promises.

He tightened the policies amidst the coronavirus pandemic which rocked the globe, claiming his decision was to protect American populace.

However, Mr Biden, immediately after his inauguration on Wednesday, issued a number of executive orders undoing some of the policies and projects of his predecessor.

Reversals
Mr Biden has now nullified the entry ban on citizens from over a dozen countries, including Nigeria, Eritrea, Yemen, and Sudan.

“There’s no time to waste.

“These are just all starting points,” he said before signing the 17 executive orders in the White House, a statement that connotes the possibility of many more to come.

READ  Not Alone: Providing mental health and psychosocial Support to Nigerians during COVID-19

Mr Trump’s strict immigration policies have been condemned by leaders and civil groups in the past.

The American Civil Liberties Union, on Wednesday lauded Mr Biden’s decision berating his predecessor’s travel policy a “cruel Muslim ban that targeted Africans.

 

Culled from Premium Times

Support Voice for African Migrants


Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
* are compulsory
cardlogos
Continue Reading

News

Frightened residents brace as Cyclone Eloise approaches Mozambique

IOM is assisting the Government of Mozambique’s preparations for the arrival of Cyclone Eloise, moving people to safety in accommodation centers in Buzi. Photo: IOM 2021

 

Roughly 160 International Organization for Migration (IOM) staff in central Mozambique are working to prepare local communities for the imminent arrival of Cyclone Eloise, which is currently packing winds of at least 150 km/h.

“The people are scared,” said Cesaltino Vilanculo, an IOM Mobile team leader in the provincial capital Beira, who helped hundreds of families evacuate from unsafe temporary settlements to two accommodation centers.

“The water is rising in their zones and people are frightened, bracing for yet another storm.”

Eloise is expected to make landfall in Beira late Friday or early Saturday. By mid-afternoon today shops across the city are closed and flooded streets, empty.

IOM personnel will be ready to respond immediately with specialists in camp coordination and management, shelter, the distribution of non-food items, health and protection services and data mapping under IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM).

READ  Not Alone: Providing mental health and psychosocial Support to Nigerians during COVID-19

The Port of Beira is set to close on Friday for a period of about 40 hours in expectation of dangerous winds and rain from the afternoon of 22 January through the morning of 24 January. Beira is the main entry point for goods bound for north coastal Mozambique.

A limited supply of emergency non-food items had been stockpiled in Beira, including tarps and water tanks. However, resources are stretched, as IOM is actively responding to the crisis across Northern Mozambique.

At the same time, over 900 people are already displaced in Beira City due to recent heavy rains and the impact of Tropical Storm Chalane, which hit nearby Sofala Province on 30 December.

“The government is working, identifying the safe places to bring the people who are most vulnerable,” explained Aida Temba, a protection project assistant with IOM Mozambique.

“The rain is coming, and the water is rising and it’s not easy to reach all the people who need assistance. But we do our best to respond.”

Hundreds of families were evacuated to two accommodation centres, sheltered in tents provided by Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction (INGD). One accommodation center was today closed, in favor of moving families to schools, which provide more stable structure. Those families’ needs include food, potable water, hygiene kits and soap.

READ  Economic Development in Africa: Migration for Structural Transformation

IOM Mozambique also has reported that due to heavy rainfall and the discharge of water from the Chicamba dam and the Mavuzi reservoir—both in the Buzi District west of Beira—over 19,000 people have been affected and hundreds are being moved to accommodation centers. Their needs include food, hygiene kits, and COVID-19 prevention materials.

IOM staff are supporting the Government of Mozambique with the movements in both Beira and Buzi and actively working to improve drainage ways in resettlement sites in preparation for further rains.

IOM’s DTM, working jointly with Mozambique’s INGD, is poised to produce a report on displacement and damages within the first 72 hours of the cyclone’s arrival.

Tropical storms historically are common in these early months of rainy season. Cyclone Idai struck the country in March 2019. It is considered one of the worst tropical cyclones to hit Africa on record, claiming hundreds of lives, and affecting three million people across wide swaths of Mozambique, Madagascar, Malawi and Zimbabwe. A second powerful storm, Cyclone Kenneth, hit Mozambique just weeks later.

READ  Homecoming agony (2): Concern over how deported sick migrants, ex-convicts are managed

Total property damages from Cyclone Idai have been estimated at some USD2.2 billion. Almost two years later, roughly 100,000 people remain in resettlement sites, which also have been battered by the recent rains.

Support Voice for African Migrants


Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
* are compulsory
cardlogos
Continue Reading

News

IOM commends United States’ inclusion of migrants in COVID-19 vaccine roll-out

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) welcomes the inclusion of migrants in the new US Administration’s national strategy for COVID-19 response and its commitment “to ensuring that safe, effective, cost-free vaccines are available to the entire U.S. public—regardless of their immigration status”.

In light of this announcement, IOM calls on all countries to adopt similar migrant-inclusive approaches, to ensure that as many lives as possible can be saved.

“COVID-19 vaccines provide the opportunity we have been waiting for, but only if we use them wisely and strategically, by protecting the most at-risk first, no matter their nationality and legal immigration status,” warned IOM Director General António Vitorino. “I applaud those Governments choosing the path of inclusion and solidarity for their vaccine roll-outs.”.

According to the COVAX Facility – the multilateral mechanism created to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines – immunization campaigns have already started in over 50 countries.

READ  How Nigerian-American police officer burst human trafficking syndicate in US

Many countries have yet to release their prioritization strategies for the vaccine roll-outs, but the United States, Germany and Jordan, among others, have already announced various measures to provide access to the vaccine equitably, including to asylum seekers, migrants in irregular situations and forcibly displaced persons. Last year, similar migrant-inclusive approaches were adopted for COVID-19 testing, treatment and social services in Ireland, Malaysia, Portugal, Qatar and the United Kingdom.

To facilitate truly effective and equitable immunization campaigns, IOM is working closely with the COVAX Facility, Member States, the World Health Organization, and other partners, and recommending that national authorities adopt practices to account for all migrant, such as:

Ensuring an adequate number of vaccine doses is planned for and procured to include migrants in-country, and that delivery systems are fit-for-purpose;
Reducing the number of administrative hurdles for migrants to access health care and vaccines, including high costs and proof of residence or identity.
Actively reaching out to migrant communities through linguistically and culturally competent communication methods to build trust, inform and engage in programming;
Offering guarantees that vaccination will not lead to detention or deportation;
Strengthening health systems and setting up mobile vaccination mechanisms where needed to ensure last-mile distribution.

READ  IOM aids COVID-impacted communities on Haiti-Dominican border, worldwide

“Migrants play an enormous part in our socioeconomic development and collective well-being.  Despite this, many migrants have remained disproportionately exposed to excessive health risks through their living and working conditions and have continued to face tremendous challenges in accessing COVID-19 and other essential health services,” said Director General Vitorino.

“If we are not careful and deliberate about including migrants in vaccination plans, we will all pay a higher price.”

Support Voice for African Migrants


Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
* are compulsory
cardlogos
Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2019 Voice for African Migrants. Site Design: Semasir Connect