THE MIGRATION CRISIS
Since 2015, the spread of the refugee crisis and the increment of migrants arrival increased the international discriminatory perception of refugees portraying refugees as thieves, slackers, and competitors, therefore a threat to the prosperity and identity of the host country but also as vulnerable and defenseless individuals with no utility for the country’s economic growth. Indeed according to Van Boven, Dutch jurist, and professor in International Law, there is “a climate and a perception that a priori regards a foreigner as an adversary, a rival, a competitor, or an adventurer who is a threat to prosperity, culture, and identity”. While on the other hand, refugees are also viewed as “powerless victims of forces beyond their control, a western social problem”.
THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has hardened humanitarian approaches and increased the sentiments of racism and xenophobia towards migrants and refugees whom today are also considered a threat to common health.
Since March 2020, when WHO declared the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a further increment in border restrictions, which limited the arrival of new migrants, thus violating their right to seek asylum and international protection.
Moreover, the ISMU Foundation highlighted that this emergency is aggravating the refugee’s condition due to a decrease in the recognition of asylum applications which led to the overpopulation of reception and shelter accommodations which only demonstrated the inadequacy of these facilities to provide the right assistance to all migrants.
Furthermore, due to the economic crisis resulting from this pandemic, migrants, and refugees that live and work in poor conditions for lower-paid informal jobs with temporary/seasonal contracts, without any social protection and unable to telework, are more easily influenced by unemployment in comparison to the country’s citizens. The International Labour Organisation reported that due to a reduction in working hours caused by State restrictions, 8.8% of the global working hours were lost in 2020 around 255 million full-time jobs that changed the lives of over 114 million people.
Female migrants are the first to experience the latter job’s discriminations in sectors primarily exposed to COVID-19, such as healthcare and family assistance. Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General stated, “Globally, employment losses for women stand at 5% versus 3.9% for men. Particularly women were much more likely than men to drop out of the labor market and become inactive”.
Furthermore, women during this difficult period are facing further discrimination in their homes due to the sharp increase in gender-based violence, especially domestic abuse. One out of 4 women but also one out of 10 men experience intimate personal violence that involves physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological violence. During the last months, the implementation of strict personal movement limitations that required staying confined home while preventing the spread of the virus left many women trapped with their abusers unable to ask for help. There has been a 9% increase in domestic abuse compared to 2019.
Migrants’ job losses led entire families to suffer great hunger. The World Food Programme estimated that the lives of around 265 million people in low and middle-income countries are under this severe threat. This poor level of nutrition results in a weaker immune system, leaving the most vulnerable to battle the virus.
In front of this global emergency, it is essential to ensure migrants a well-maintained, protected, private accommodation by prioritizing their primary necessities. These precautions will reduce the presence of discrimination and harassment and avoid the overpopulation of shelters, necessary to prevent the spread of infections such as the current COVID-19. Moreover, host-states should ensure that people do not surrender to this crisis by encouraging and advocating migrants’ participation in the labour market and recognizing their skills and qualifications, offering them independent legal status and direct employment policies.
Humanitarian Content Writer, Act for Displaced
A committed Human Rights advocate. Graduated with a Master in Human Rights Law at the University of Edinburgh. Human rights has always been a common factor, recently I’ve approached social and environmental sustainability at EY.