Lockdown in hell: The impact of COVID-19 on migrants and refugees – Liberal Article
In May, immigration authorities in Malaysia, a country that has received some praise in its efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, started detaining illegal immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from the Rohingya population originating from Myanmar. Many of the detention centres became cramped, and COVID19 spread like wildfire.
Recently, an Al-Jazeera documentary brought some light to what was happening, which saw thousands of undocumented migrant workers arrested and hauled into detention centres. But within days of the documentary’s release, several journalists from Al-Jazeera in Malaysia were called into questioning by the police and the government.
Similarly, in the USA, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued an order encouraging the immediate deportation of non-citizens, including asylum seekers, from the country, citing obscure quarantine laws to justify the order. This has resulted in hundreds of cases in detention centres and already two deaths. This is despite the United States still having the highest number of cases in the world. Personally, I see this move by the United States government as a complete failure. Particularly, in their role as a global superpower given their resources.
Refugees are at a disproportionate risk to contract COVID-19 for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, most refugee camps are located in areas with limited healthcare, where there are no hospitals. Even with this, if a refugee was to catch COVID-19 in a camp. It is still being questioned as to whether the host country’s hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) beds would be accessible to these refugees.
Secondly, most refugees often live with multiple families in squalid, high-density conditions. This means that social distancing, which we have all grown to do during lockdown, is impossible as most refugee camps and migrant detention centres are fully crammed.
Refugees are also more likely to have underlying health conditions such as malnutrition. This means that COVID-19 will affect refugees more severely than ordinary citizens.
All across the world, I feel as if the coronavirus is being used as a scapegoat. For governments to wash their hands of the responsibility of dealing with migrants. If so, I feel it is up to us to ensure that our governments are held accountable by us. As only governments are best suited to help them.
One way to ensure refugee “COVID-clusters” don’t form is through detailed and thorough testing. And, ensuring that all refugees will be able to get access to hospitals. Therefore, ensuring that more lives aren’t lost so easily.
Another way to ensure that COVID19 doesn’t spread amongst refugees is to provide more emergency aid to middle-income countries that may not necessarily have the capability to handle so many COVID-infected migrants and refugees. The only way to eliminate this global pandemic is to eliminate the virus, globally. Maybe countries like Malaysia won’t have to detain migrants in such a way if they could afford to house them in safer environments.
One thing which we must remember is that we can’t let this pandemic become an excuse for xenophobia and stigmatisation, or to start implementing policies such as stopping asylum because refugees are too much of a burden. This pandemic has nothing to do with status as it truly affects everyone. I fear that with far-right administrations springing up across the globe, the pandemic will be used as an excuse for repressive policies.
Ultimately, this virus is an inflection point for all of us. Everyone’s lives have been changed, but more so for some than others. During these troubling times, it is our compassion and the way that we treat the less fortunate that will tell whether we will beat this virus.
Personally, as a person who was privileged enough to be at home with my family during the pandemic. It is devastating to realise that with all this uncertainty, some refugees will perish in cold, squalid detention camps, thousands of miles away from their loved ones.
When dealing with this pandemic, Senator Bernie Sanders made it clear that “we are only as safe as the most exposed person”. Our compassion to help protect refugees from COVID19 will help us as much as it helps them.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Imran Mydin
Point of Information
We need to improve the quality of our detention camps – Conservative Response
It’s clear that Imran’s article was trying to touch on a very difficult issue. Relating to the migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic with compassion and empathy. Understandably, this is a political problem that needs to be dealt with logically.
It is true that the refugees do live in high-density conditions which facilitate the spread of the virus. Personally, I would like to see stricter restrictions on immigration/refugees. But for this, we would need to see our Home Office doing their job properly. I can understand Imran’s point from the political perspective – the refugees are certainly making containing the virus more difficult.
I don’t think that emergency aid is the solution – the UK’s spending has already been humongous. Our debt to GDP ratio is approaching 275%. We cannot afford to provide extra aid to countries that host refugees – this should be done by the EU.
The issue is difficult because access to hospitals should be limited to our taxpayers. But the refugees already have access to our healthcare, so nothing stops them from getting tested and receiving help.
Overall, I agree with the points made by Imran. But I think that we are already doing a lot to ensure that the refugees receive the help they need. The main element that needs to be tackled is the cramped spaces in detention camps. We should probably expand these places to ensure that they are being hosted in an appropriate manner.
Written by Junior Conservative Writer, Dinah Kolka
COVID-19 is only exacerbating how vulnerable refugees and migrants already are – Labour Response
Well said Imran!
Whilst COVID-19 may strike indiscriminately, there is no question that the most disproportionately affected are the poor and marginalised. Society’s poorest and most marginalised; refugees and undocumented migrants.
As Imran notes, the terrible conditions of places such as refugee camps or detention centres render them a playground for a virus like COVID. In Singapore, 93% of COVID-19 cases stemmed from dorms that house migrant workers. In Bangladesh’s camps, home to thousands of Rohingya refugees, it’s estimated that a single COVID-19 case could lead to 2,040 – 2,090 deaths.
Even outside camps, refugees face a higher risk of infection. Refugees are disproportionately represented in key or essential worker roles such as in restaurants, shops, and healthcare; 15% of all US refugees work in the health-care sector.
Thus, it is clear that COVID has only preyed upon pre-existing poverty and poor living conditions that refugees and migrants are systemically subjected to. It has weaponised their densely packed and unhygienic living conditions by making them a threat to those who live outside the camps. Dinah’s response exemplifies how often we only care about refugees and illegal immigrants in relation to ourselves.
In a time where governments are shutting their borders and people become distrusting. Those who will suffer the most are the ones that we as an international community habitually turn our backs on.
The real question we must pose to ourselves is why it’s taken a global pandemic to address the abysmal treatment of refugees and migrants? Why is it that refugees and migrants are consistently the poorest and most marginalised members of society?
Throughout history refugees and migrants have been the targets of vilification and propaganda. Campaign upon campaign has redirected resentment and insecurity onto the face of black and brown peoples. Securitizing them as a national threat. You only have to look at Trump or Farage’s racist anti-immigration campaigns, ICE’s detention centres, Australia’s Christmas Island, and even the Windrush Scandal to see how influential that sentiment throughout politics.
Now, states have the excuse of coronavirus to enact increasingly isolationist policies. Already Uganda, home to roughly 1.4 million refugees, has closed its borders to any new asylum seekers. Similarly, Italy has suspended all pending status applications, meaning that many are stuck in bureaucratic limbo and unable to access basic health care without formal identification and registration.
This is saddening but predictable. Especially as it was precisely this insular type of behaviour that resulted in the refugee crisis in the first place. I can only hope that the same generous and compassionate mindset that has enabled international communication and cooperation to fight COVID, will be employed after the pandemic to address the refugee crisis.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Abi Smuts