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We’re in dilemma! Nigerians in India lament as COVID-19 ravages Asian country

• Migrants fear returning home because of insecurity  • Relations back at home fret, fear for loved ones  • Africans shun hospitals, fear they could be injected with virus • Why we can’t evacuate citizens – FG

By Innocent Duru

Palpable fear rules the camp of more than 55,000 Nigerians resident in India following the exponential spike in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 and dying from it in the Asian country.

India, home of some notable manufacturers and exporters of COVID-19 vaccines, has been recording more than 200,000 cases daily since April 15, well past its peak last year when it averaged about 93,000 cases daily.  The country has consequently overtaken Brazil and other nations to become the second worst hit country globally.

Following the rate at which the pandemic was spreading, curfews were initially announced in some areas but when the plague would not abate, many states went into lockdown.

The ugly development, according to findings made by our correspondent, is making Nigerians and other Africans resident in the country to panic. And they face ugly prospects because they are not entitled to palliatives and also cannot go out to earn a living.

Malik Ali Paul, a Nigerian resident in India, said: “The major challenge now is that there has been a total lockdown for two to three weeks in Delhi, which is the capital of India, and also in Pune City of Maharashtra state, and there is no movement.

“The implementation of the directive is very, very strict. We don’t even have the ability to move out of our homes. People are always indoors, and if you need anything, it has to be brought to you.

“The whole situation is disturbing. A lot of Indians are dying like fowls. The death rate has gone up tremendously. I have some brothers here who have also gone for the COVID-19 test and came out positive.

“They just went for check-up, got tested and came out positive. As a result of that, a lot of them are scared. In all this, we thank God that there is no African that has been reported to have died of the pandemic.”

Mrs Janefrances Fortune, who operates a restaurant in India, bemoaned the ravaging effects of the pandemic on their businesses, saying: “This COVID-19 is on the verge of disorganising our businesses and life here in India. It has not been easy for us as business owners. The number of infected people keeps increasing every day. We no longer go out the way we used to, business is very dull.”

She added:  “Some of us who are with kids no longer feel safe again going out with our kids. These days, I leave my kids with their dad at home to take care of them while I run around to get things done in my shop.

“Sometimes, most of our customers prefer home delivery because they don’t also feel safe coming out to a public place. We all pray that with time, this too will pass and things will be normal again.

“We know that people back home are worried about us. They are really worried about us. But about returning home to Nigeria this time, I can’t risk that. We are also concerned about our loved ones over there. We always call to check up on them.

“The Indian government is trying their best to control it. I really commend their efforts. Indian citizens respect their government and always abide by the rules and regulations, unlike we Nigerians.”

Faustina Ebube, a Nursing student, decried the effects of the pandemic on her education.

She said: “We are only doing online classes for now. We don’t have to go to the hospital or school, and because of this, we are not doing practicals; we are only doing theories.

“But they say practice makes perfect. Without the practical aspect, you cannot learn and perfect what you have been taught.

“I am worried about my mum and my dad and siblings. People here at a point took COVID-19 for granted as if it had already gone, but it came back with so much force.

READ  How Nigeria 'imports, spreads' COVID-19

“Nigerians are putting up the same attitude. If the same thing happens in Nigeria, I don’t think the government will be able to do anything to save the people.

“In spite of the fact that the hospitals here are very big and well equipped, beds are no longer available for patients. I am really worried for my people back at home.”

Also lamenting the effects of the lockdown on the cost of living in India, Ebube said: “Prices of goods have increased because of the pandemic and it is not all the shops that are allowed to open. Only businesses that are into essential services are allowed to operate, and their prices have been very high.

“I don’t eat Indian food and have to buy things from African market to make things for myself.  But most of the things are not coming again from Nigeria because of the surge in the pandemic. The ones available here are very expensive because of the increase in demand, and it is not fair to us as students here in India,

“I am not willing to return home because of the security challenges at home. The only thing that can make me want to come home is my family. Seriously, Nigeria is not safe. I have been reading the news lately. Nigeria is not safe at all.

“I am always checking up on my family to know if they are safe. If I have the power, I will do everything to take them out of Nigeria. Seriously, I am not willing to return to Nigeria.”

Fears spread

A former Public Relations Officer of All India Nigerian Students and Community Association (AINSCA), Samuel Dickson, said   the COVID-19 pandemic in India has been a very horrific experience.

“We fear for our lives each passing day,” he said. “There is huge fear among Nigerians here in India. Our parents are waiting for us back home. So we fear for our lives. We have been following the guidelines in order not to contract the deadly virus.

“As things stand now in India, this second wave has spread very fast. It is spreading wide, but we keep praying that God will help the government to combat the pandemic, because they have been working tirelessly together with their researchers, doctors, scientists, including law enforcement agencies, to stem the tide.

“Here the citizens obey instructions and the law.”

Going down memory lane, he said: “In March 2020, there was a lockdown which lasted for six months before the government started relaxing it. When the second wave started, the government imposed a curfew from 10 pm to 5am.

“Later on, they introduced a fresh lockdown for 10 days starting from April 26. But when the cases kept rising in thousands, they extended the lockdown till May 2 with a probability that there may be complete lockdown subsequently. Now there are a huge number of deaths and new cases coming up every day. For me, I fear for my life, those of my friends, and others. The experience is very horrific.

“Social and economic life has not been the same again. Imagine yourself staying at home during this lockdown. We have bills to pay. This is not our fatherland. Here we live in rented apartments. We buy food and water and pay for electricity.

“It hasn’t been easy. It has been a very tough one. As Nigerians, we can no longer socialise as we used to.  As it stands now, not more than 58 people are expected to be in any gathering. For now, there is no gathering of Nigerians.

“We don’t even go to church or go out for the purpose of earning livelihood. It has affected us enormously.  There is a shortage of beds and oxygen because of the large number of cases they are having every day.”

Like other respondents before him, Dickson said:  “There is possibly no way for us to come back home. We also fear for our families back home because of insecurity. There is also the problem of high cost of living in Nigeria, which is highly uncalled for. It stresses the citizens. It is just so frustrating for us.

READ  UNCOVERED: How NGOs, not FG facilitated release of ladies held captive in Lebanon

“In terms of the vaccines, they are made available to everyone by the Indian government. Last year, our association gave palliatives to Africans in different states in India. The Nigeria High Commission also gave out palliatives with few individuals making contributions to that effect.”

One of the leaders of the Nigerian community in India, who identified himself simply as Bakare, said they didn’t expect what is happening in the Asian country now.

Bakare said: “This second wave of the pandemic here in India was unexpected. It is spreading like wildfire and people are dying.

“It is really affecting the Indians because of their population and because of the way they gather together during their festivals. In our own case, we have stopped going to church or mosque and even meetings.

“Our people back home are worried and we are also worried. Because of the situation back at home, we are scared of coming.

“In spite of the situation here, this place is more peaceful. Nigeria is not worth coming back to for now with the unpleasant stories we are hearing about insecurity and scarcity of food, among others.”

Nigerians shun hospitals, fear they could be injected with virus

For many Africans resident in India, particularly Nigerians, going to hospital to complain about any kind of ailment is out of it for now. Some of them fear that any African that goes to the hospital may be injected with the virus as they have grown envious that the black communities are not affected by the pandemic.

Licoln, a business man said: “We are scared of going to some hospitals because they are not happy that blacks are not contracting the virus. No black person, from my findings, has contracted it.  It is just that any black person that is sick should just be careful because they can be labeled as carriers of the virus.

“Anybody that dies right now of either kidney failure or whatever, they see them as Coronavirus patients and would have their bodies cremated. It is a dicey situation. We are all at a standstill.

“We are calling on the Nigerian government to see what they can do.  Our embassy is not working properly. The new ambassador that has been posted here is still in London because of the pandemic. We are just in the hands of God.”

He further said: “When the second wave started, you would see people walking on the street and falling down. The opposition party is saying that they should go on full lockdown but the prime minister is begging and asking that they should see how they can administer the vaccines which they have been selling to other parts of the world to enable their economy to thrive.

“Their economy was badly affected in 2020. Now the pandemic is growing at an alarming rate.

“Our family members and friends back at home and other places are calling to check on us. But there is no case of a black person or Nigerian contracting the virus. The Nigerian government has to look into the area of getting its citizens protected.”

Asked if he would be willing to return to the country, which has a very low record of the pandemic, Lincoln shared pictures and videos of killings and news of kidnappers asking for ransom in Nigerian with our reporter and asked: “Is this where you want us to return to?  If we are asked to return home, I don’t think any Nigerian will be willing to go back.

“I have been seeing some gory pictures, some horrible videos from Nigeria. The situation in our country is so pathetic. Nigeria is not safe, my brother. People are not willing to come; I will not lie to you.”

READ  Uganda lifts COVID-19 closure admits refugees escaping escalating violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

Another respondent, Ann, also nurses the fear of being infected with the virus if she goes to any hospital over there.

“I am also scared of going to the hospital because I don’t want them to infect me with coronavirus. They restrict us from doing so many things here because we are Africans. I have financial problems because it is not easy getting money from Nigeria.”

Nigerians shun vaccines, resort to local measures

Africans in India, aside from adhering to the COVID-19 preventive protocols, are said to be depending more on local preventive measures to avoid the deadly virus.

Malik, a resident, said: “We are actually taking preventive measures as African communities here. We are always enlightening ourselves on what to do whenever we feel any symptom.

“If we decide to go to the hospital, you know what it means. We are also applying our local measures. We use dogoyaro leaves with ginger and garlic. We boil them together and consume them for prevention purposes.

“Pune City has a high rate of COVID-19 infection rate, yet they are the ones producing the vaccines. Many are actually taking the vaccines but they are still dying. I don’t think the vaccines are working.

“Meanwhile some Africans are not taking it.”

Maik added: “What we are hearing in the news is that beginning from May, they will embark on a strategic plan to make sure that everybody takes it. So many people have taken it already.

“The pandemic wiped out three Indian families in just one week in the same Pune City where the vaccine is produced. The safety of the vaccine is minus 100 per cent in my own view.

“I don’t know what the plan is now for May 1 when they will be embarking on a very serious vaccination exercise.

“Many Africans are not going to take it; I am sure of that. If that would be the case, many would just have to go back to their country.”

As part of Nigerians’ strategy for staying safe, Bakare, a leader of the Nigerian community in India, said: The elders and the executive of Nigerian communalities always caution our people against going out anyhow. We have stopped meetings in all our communities. I don’t think any African community is having problems with the pandemic. It is only the Indians that are facing it.”

Why we can’t evacuate citizens yet – FG

The Nigerian authorities said they cannot evacuate the citizens until there is a request to that effect.

The spokesman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Rahman Balogun, said: “Evacuation of Nigerians is a policy matter. You have to ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is when it is decided that Nigerians are under threat that the ministry would direct us to work out the modalities for evacuation.”

Contacted, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ferdinand Nwoye, said: “Evacuation is done on request. It is when the people there indicate that they are helpless in most cases. It is not like the federal government goes out to evacuate; we just coordinate it.

“They will pay for their tickets and, through the embassy, we profile them. I don’t think there is any request, to my knowledge.”

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Investigation

Alarm as Nigeria receives 60 new deportees from countries ravaged by COVID-19

  • Returnees melt into society without observing protocols

  • We’re not aware of deportation – Foreign Affairs Ministry, NIDCOM

  • 42 people already deported – FAAN

  • Development portends grave danger – NARD

On May 23, the Federal Government declared 90 returnees from Brazil, India, and Turkey wanted for violating the provisions of the COVID-19 Health Regulations Protection, 2021. The Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said the affected persons travelled into Nigeria from restricted countries and evaded the mandatory seven-day quarantine for persons arriving from such countries. Surprisingly, the same federal government accepted 60 deportees from Germany and other European countries without plans for them to be quarantined or subjected to fresh COVID-19 tests in the country as stipulated in the guidelines. INNOCENT DURU reports that health experts say the development portends grave danger for the country and the efforts to stop the spread of the pandemic.

 

A number of Nigerian migrants who went in search of greener pastures  to Germany, Austria and Poland were deported penultimate Wednesday amidst the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic. They arrived at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos at exactly 13:30 pm via Air Tanker Airline, which flew back after refueling.

The returnees were subsequently moved out in three batches in a white Coaster bus that dropped them outside the airport. Three women and four children were sighted by our correspondent among the deportees.

Many people at the airport distanced themselves from the deportees with some warning their colleagues to stay away from them because they were coming from regions hard-hit by the deadly virus.

“You better stay away from them if you don’t want to put yourself in danger. How can you stay so close to people who just came back from Germany where the coronavirus infection rate is very high?” one of the workers at the cargo section said as he hurriedly walked away from where the deportees stood despondently.

Contrary to directives by Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 that returnees must “show evidence of payment/appointment for a repeat PCR test in the country and proceed on seven-day self-isolation as per protocol and present (themselves)  at the designated sample collection sites on the 7th day of arrival,” the deportees were merely cleared based on the test results they brought and  presented to the authorities when they arrived at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.

Some of the deportees who had the means started taking taxis to their various destinations within Lagos. Some who had no relations in Lagos State boarded taxis that took them to where they could get vehicles going to places like Edo, Delta and other states.

“I didn’t pay money in Germany for a repeat Covid test in Nigeria before I was deported. When we landed, I gave them the result of the COVID-19 test I did before coming back.

“They only checked our temperature after profiling us. They didn’t ask us to go and do a repeat COVID-19 test anywhere here in Nigeria. After the profiling, they brought a bus that dropped us here,” one of the deportees said.

His claims were also corroborated by other deportees who spoke with The Nation, saying: “We weren’t asked to do a repeat COVID-19 test here. I was even surprised because I was expecting that they would ask us to go for a fresh test on arrival. In Germany, testing centres are everywhere. You can see them in vans in open places. You can walk into any of them anytime to do your test. I am shocked to see that there is nothing like that here.”

READ  IOM launches urgent $140 million appeal to support communities and refugees in Cox’s Bazar

More than seven days after they returned, the deportees neither went on self isolation nor presented themselves for fresh tests. The authorities did not make any preparation for all that, and this has continued to raise questions about the genuineness of the campaign for people to wear face masks and observe social distancing, among other precautions, while the government and its officials continue to bring in deported migrants from high risk countries without considering the implications for the populace.

Three of the returnees evacuated from Dubai last year tested positive for COVID-19 infection following the tests conducted on them upon arrival in Lagos. They had earlier tested negative in Dubai but the test conducted on them on arrival in Nigeria by the Lagos State Government proved otherwise.

According to the World Health Organisation, the incubation period of coronavirus infection is an average of five to six days and can also take up to 14 days. This is the period between exposure to the virus and patients showing symptoms. In other words, the three patients could have been infected but asymptomatic when they returned, and thus initially tested negative.

Checks conducted by our correspondent revealed that it was  not the first time Nigeria would allow deportees to melt into the society without subjecting them to fresh tests. Last year, December 20 to be precise, The Nation had reported how deportees from Austria and Germany were quietly let into the country without subjecting them to fresh tests or considering the implications of such for the country and its inhabitants.

Surprisingly, government officials are in the habit of denying such deportations or feigning ignorance of them.

FAAN, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NIDCOM disagree on deportation

Three federal government agencies were in disagreement over the veracity of the deportation exercise penultimate Wednesday.

The Federal Airways Authority of Nigeria told The Nation that the deportation took place, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) said they were not aware of the exercise.

Spokesperson of FAAN, Henrirtta Yakubu, in a reply to a test message sent by our reporter, listed the countries the deportees came from thus: “Germany (24), Australia (16), Hungary (2). They   arrived on 26-5-21 At about 1330hours on airplane with no GYM registration.

Spokesman of NIDCOM, Rahman Balogun, in a text message, said: “I am not even aware of such deportation. You may wish to get it from the respective embassies or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

When contacted, the spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Ferdinand Nwoye, simply said: “I am not aware of the deportation.”

When our correspondent reached out to the National Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Monday James, he said: “ I am no longer the PRO. I have been promoted.”

Spokesperson of the service in Lagos, Edet, also said he had been promoted and not in a position to respond to the enquiry. He promised to provide the contact of his successor but was yet to do so at the time of filing this report.

No response was also received from the image maker of Nigeria Port Health, Morenikeji Okoh. A call made to her mobile phone went unanswered. She later sent a text message asking our correspondent to send his request by text message. She didn’t respond to the request either.

When our correspondent called her for a similar request last year, Okoh had said: “You need to know that I cannot give you any information from the ministry because I am not authorised to speak to the media. So, I cannot answer any of those questions.

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It portends grave danger for our health system – NARD

A medical expert and First Vice Chairman of the National Association of Resident Doctors, Dr Arome Adejo, says the practice of allowing people from abroad to mingle with the larger society without carrying out necessary tests on them portends grave danger for the country and its people.

In a telephone chat with our correspondent, he said it is not enough for them to present test results they had done over there on arrival, adding: “If people are leaving here for Germany and on arriving there, they are meant to do the test again. They should also do the same thing here because of the incubation period.

“You might have been exposed after you did the initial test at the airport. They have to repeat the test. If they are allowing them to enter the country without doing the test, it means we don’t know what we are doing.

“If they have been allowed to mingle with the larger society, it is the fault of the people whose responsibility it is to make the deportees do the test.”

Such practice, Arome said, is the reason why they as resident doctors are lamenting  that  people are not held responsible in this country.

He said: “Ours is a country where things are not taken seriously until they escalate. We are not setting our priorities right. They need to repeat the test here on arrival.

“Obviously, it is right for them to come back here and do another test if they have not been vaccinated. If they don’t do the test, it is wrong.

“We have some countries that are seeing their third wave now. We don’t need to introduce the third wave into this country. It is absolutely wrong.”

He also expressed disappointment at claims by government agencies that they were not aware of the deportation, saying: “It is a shame if government agencies say they are not aware of the deportation. Was it not a plane that brought them?

 

“Even if those people are not deportees, everybody coming into the country has certain protocols they must observe.

“We have travelled abroad. There was a time I was kept at the airport abroad for six hours. They should not be saying that they are not aware. If they say so, it is an embarrassment.

“This is why we are saying that people should be held responsible.”

A public affairs analyst and former president of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, Mazi Okechukwu Unegbu, blamed the development on inconsistencies in government policies.

He said: “Our government is like a government of triple or quadruple standard. What you hear today is not what you will hear tomorrow. There is no consistent policy from them.

“Allowing deportees from Germany to come in without subjecting them to tests is very unfortunate, and that is part of the double standards I am talking about.”

He feared that the action of the authorities was tantamount to joking with the lives of the entire citizens.

“They are endangering most of us, particularly those of us that have not had the opportunity of taking the jab.

“Our government needs to be consistent with what they are doing, otherwise, the implication is that they will be endangering the lives of many Nigerians.

READ  Alarm as Nigeria receives 60 new deportees from countries ravaged by COVID-19

“Economically, it is also very dangerous for the country. The government should realise that any policy they take has an implication on the larger economy.”

Asked if the cost of the tests could have made the authorities take such a decision since the deportees might not have the wherewithal, Unegbu said: “If the government didn’t subject them to tests because of the cost of doing so, it would be dangerous. The government has the responsibility to protect the citizens.

“If possible, the government can bear the cost and make claims on them later. Since they have their passports  they can trace them later.

“But I must tell you that it is  dangerous for them to have allowed them to enter the larger society without the normal process of testing and quarantining them.

“Testing is very important because without it, some of them may not show the actual result.

“The government needs to protect the citizens through their policies. Unfortunately, some of the civil servants are just too careless. If you come out of the airport and see how they behave, you will wonder how Nigeria is not having a pandemic escalated beyond what we have.

“Honestly, Nigeria is blessed through nature and not through the actions of our workers.”

German authorities snatched our children from us – Deportees

Some of the deportees alleged that the German authorities took their children from them before they were deported.

One of them, a fair complexioned woman, had lost her voice crying over the loss of her only child to the German authorities. She was said to have cried from when they left the airport in Germany till she arrived in Lagos.

She said: “They took my 18-year-old daughter from me. I don’t know how I will see her again.

“They brainwashed her seriously and immediately they took her from me. I was put in prison before they deported me.

“I have not eaten for the past five days because I didn’t want them to poison my food. They handcuffed me and tied me to my seat with a belt.

“My concern is about my daughter.”

Another deportee said: “They took my children from me and kept me in prison for 18 months before deporting me.

“I would advise you not to travel to a white man’s country because they are very wicked.”

Nigeria’s coronavirus cases compared in Germany, Austria, and Hungary

Checks on countries where the migrants were deported from showed that they have extremely higher cases than Nigeria.

Germany, at the time of compiling this report, ranked 10th on the global COVID-19 chart with over 3,692,908 cases and 89,316 deaths. Hungary placed 32nd with 804,987 cases and 29,774 deaths. Austria placed 38 with 645,552 and 10, 621 deaths. Nigeria ranks distant 81 with 166,534 and 2,099 deaths.

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.
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Investigation

IOM launches urgent $140 million appeal to support communities and refugees in Cox’s Bazar

Cox’s Bazar – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has launched an Appeal for USD 140 million to support over 1.3 million host community members and Rohingya refugees residing in Cox’s Bazar District in Bangladesh.

For the nearly 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, 2021 marks the fourth year since their mass displacement from Myanmar, preceded by decades of influxes spurned by systematic discrimination and targeted violence.

While the Government of Bangladesh and the international community have maintained the provision of immediate life-saving assistance, the needs are immense and complex challenges continue to emerge and reshape the nature of the response.

“Under the leadership of the Government of Bangladesh, we will continue to work closely with our partners and uphold our commitment to safeguard the well-being and dignity of both Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and their host communities,” said António Vitorino, IOM Director General.

“At the same time, the international community must continue to advocate for sustainable solutions in Myanmar that would eventually facilitate what all Rohingya refugees have consistently voiced as their main concern — to return home.”

READ  NIgeria flays insugents' attack on UN humanitarian helicopter

The humanitarian community swiftly shifted priorities in 2020 to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on the Rohingya residing in the 34 congested refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district. COVID-19 interventions were scaled up, and other humanitarian services adjusted, according to guidelines on access and presence to reduce the spread of infection.

A recent UN survey revealed a decrease in shelter maintenance and livelihoods, and deterioration in the protection environment. These challenges, and others such as monsoon and cyclone preparedness and response, will remain at the forefront of the response in 2021.

IOM will continue to provide life-saving emergency shelter and core relief items to support households affected by the recent devastating fire, monsoon and other disasters and shocks. The team will strengthen safe and dignified living conditions through rationalized and participatory site planning and through environmentally conscious construction and site maintenance initiatives.

The activities outlined in the appeal promote equitable access to mental health and psychosocial support services for all crisis-affected individuals. IOM also aims to encourage the use of essential healthcare packages among refugees and host communities by countering misinformation and supporting community engagement.

READ  Uganda lifts COVID-19 closure admits refugees escaping escalating violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

The impact of the crisis on the affected areas in Cox’s Bazar District likewise requires concerted efforts to support host communities affected by price increases and strained livelihoods.

IOM will enhance the livelihoods and resilience of women, girls, men and boys who are part of vulnerable host communities, and support social protection interventions in cooperation with the Government of Bangladesh. The organization will also continue to address the urgent cooking fuel needs of refugees through the provision of alternative clean fuel and technology.

“Together with the Government and our local partners, we will contribute to the peaceful coexistence of Rohingya refugees and host communities,” said Giorgi Gigauri, IOM Chief of Mission in Bangladesh. “Ensuring a community-based approach to the response, the teams will continue to improve the participation of affected people through community feedback and collective data analysis.”

IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s plans and funding requirements to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of those impacted by, or at risk of, crisis and displacement in 2021 and beyond.

READ  Evacuated Nigerians from UK face untold suffering on arrival

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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.

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Investigation

Despite positive efforts, too many migrants face challenges accessing COVID-19 vaccines

Geneva – Government policies, operational realities and administrative requirements like identification cards and residency permits may be impeding access to national vaccination efforts for some migrants in 53 of the more than 160 countries where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has collected information on access so far. Irregular and undocumented migrants and those forcibly displaced are at particular risk.

“We have been impressed with efforts made in dozens of countries to make vaccination roll-outs as equitable as possible, but barriers to health services have been systemic since before the pandemic and remain a reality for too many migrants in too many places,” said IOM Director General António Vitorino.

“What we are seeing in some cases is a disconnect between what is being committed to on paper and what is actually happening in practice.”

Some 47 countries have already taken concrete steps to ensure that migrants, including those in irregular situations, can access the vaccine. Many nations are still awaiting doses to begin their vaccination roll-outs. Even when they start, IOM has identified more than 53 countries, territories or areas where current policies and operational realities will make vaccine access unattainable for the most vulnerable.

READ  Gambia youths lament death of 58 migrants in Atlantic Ocean

Administrative, communication and logistical hurdles 

IOM notes with particular concern close to 40 countries where administrative processes – such as requirements to present a national ID or valid residence permit, or to pre-register with national insurance schemes – may present an obstacle for some categories of migrants and forcibly displaced persons.

Other types of barriers have been identified in several locations, including prioritization of citizens and exclusion of non-nationals from vaccination campaigns; the lack of a “firewall” between health providers and immigration authorities which leads many migrants in irregular situations to fear arrest or deportation should they seek immunization; general vaccine hesitancy due to insufficient targeted outreach through linguistically and culturally appropriate channels; continued mobility as a challenge for vaccines requiring two doses, and the need to have a smartphone, a computer or an internet connection to enroll.

Good practices identified 

The Organization’s ongoing review of migrant access in practice – which differs from desk reviews of the national deployment and vaccination plans being undertaken by other stakeholders – has also brought to light the many encouraging initiatives taken by governments who recognize that vaccine equity is critical to overcome the health, economic and mobility crises posed by this pandemic.

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Among the good practices noted are:

  • Accepting any form of identification document, no matter its expiration date, with no questions asked about the person’s immigration status.
  • Pro-actively reaching out to migrant communities, in tailored languages and through relevant communication channels to build trust and create vaccine demand.
  • Deploying mobile vaccination teams to reach remote areas where primary health services remain scarce.
  • Guaranteeing that there will be no reporting to immigration authorities following immunization.
  • Granting residency rights or visa extensions for migrants in irregular situations, to ensure they can access social benefits, including health care.

Working hand-in-hand with national health authorities, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other key partners, IOM has been advocating for such measures to bridge the gaps, and has been providing governments with technical, policy and operational support, upon request.

“There is still time to course-correct for vaccine equity wherever there is the political will to do so,” said Director General Vitorino. “It is often in the day-to-day processes and administrative requirements in health centres that the fight for true inclusion is won or lost, so I call on all governments to clear the path towards COVID-19 immunization for all.”

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