COVID-19 – Refugees, Migrants, Trafficked and Stateless Persons, Indigenous Groups

COVID-19 – Refugees, Migrants, Trafficked and Stateless Persons

The Rights and Health of Refugees, Migrants and Stateless Must be Protected in COVID-19 Response
2020-03-31 18:52
OHCHR, IOM, UNHCR and WHO – Joint Press Release
Geneva – In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, we are all vulnerable. The virus has shown that it does not discriminate – but many refugees, those forcibly displaced, the stateless and migrants are at heightened risk.

Three-quarters of the world’s refugees and many migrants are hosted in developing regions where health systems are already overwhelmed and under-capacitated. Many live in overcrowded camps, settlements, makeshift shelters or reception centers, where they lack adequate access to health services, clean water and sanitation.

The situation for refugees and migrants held in formal and informal places of detention, in cramped and unsanitary conditions, is particularly worrying. Considering the lethal consequences a COVID-19 outbreak would have, they should be released without delay. Migrant children and their families and those detained without a sufficient legal basis should be immediately released.

This disease can be controlled only if there is an inclusive approach which protects every individual’s rights to life and health. Migrants and refugees are disproportionately vulnerable to exclusion, stigma and discrimination, particularly when undocumented. To avert a catastrophe, governments must do all they can to protect the rights and the health of everyone. Protecting the rights and the health of all people will in fact help control the spread of the virus.

It is vital that everyone, including all migrants and refugees, are ensured equal access to health services and are effectively included in national responses to COVID-19, including prevention, testing and treatment. Inclusion will help not only to protect the rights of refugees and migrants, but will also serve to protect public health and stem the global spread of COVID-19.

While many nations protect and host refugee and migrant populations, they are often not equipped to respond to crises such as Covid-19. To ensure refugees and migrants have adequate access to national health services, States may need additional financial support. This is where the world’s financial institutions can play a leading role in making funds available.

While countries are closing their borders and limiting cross-border movements, there are ways to manage border restrictions in a manner which respects international human rights and refugee protection standards, including the principle of non-refoulement, through quarantine and health checks.

More than ever, as COVID-19 poses a global threat to our collective humanity, our primary focus should be on the preservation of life, regardless of status. This crisis demands a coherent, effective international approach that leaves no-one behind. At this crucial moment we all need to rally around a common objective, fighting this deadly virus. Many refugees, displaced, stateless people and migrants have skills and resources that can also be part of the solution.

We cannot allow fear or intolerance to undermine rights or compromise the effectiveness of responses to the global pandemic. We are all in this together. We can only defeat this virus when each and every one of us is protected.


UN experts call on Governments to adopt urgent measures to protect migrants and trafficked persons in their response to COVID-19
GENEVA (3 April 2020) – States worldwide must urgently adopt inclusive measures aimed at protecting migrants and trafficked persons in their national response to COVID-19, such as prevention measures, testing, medical treatment, health services and social assistance, two UN human rights experts said today.

“States should also take steps towards the regularisation of undocumented migrants whenever necessary, in view of facilitating their access to health services during the fight against the pandemic,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on migrants, Felipe González Morales, and on trafficking in persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro.

“Migrants in irregular situations, asylum seekers, exploited and trafficked persons may be particularly at risk of COVID-19 because their living or working environment may expose them to the virus without necessary protection,” they said.

“I am concerned that some migrants, including asylum seekers, do not have access to minimal protection against the contagion, not even clean water to wash their hands. Many live in overcrowded shelters or detention centres without the possibility to observe physical distance. Some migrants are working in agriculture or in informal sectors without any protection measures,” González Morales said.
“People who have been granted residence permits on grounds of trafficking and have a job or are participating in a training programme should be allowed to obtain work permits through facilitated procedures. Such a measure aims to avoid precariousness and to ensure their full access to healthcare,” Giammarinaro added.

The UN experts welcomed the decision adopted by some States to grant temporary residency rights, including access to social and health benefits to migrants including asylum seekers, amid the fight against the pandemic.

“No one should be left behind in this global fight against the pandemic. Governments must adopt measures ensuring every individual in the national territory, regardless of their migration status, is included and has access to health services in order to achieve successful containment of the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said.

The UN Special Rapporteurs also called for an automatic extension for at least six months of all protection and assistance programmes for migrants in vulnerable situations and trafficked persons that are close to their expiration date, to ensure continuity of survivors’ social inclusion process.

“The protection granted to unaccompanied children close to adulthood must also be extended for a minimum period of six months. Particular attention should be given to inadequate or overcrowding facilities where migrants are accommodated,” the experts said. Residents at such facilities, whether open or closed, should be provided with accurate and accessible information on the COVID19 outbreak, practical advice on preventing infection and access to clean water, sanitation facilities and other prevention materials.

“In overcrowded facilities where it is impossible for all residents to practise physical distancing, alternatives venues should be identified and consideration should be given to releasing those who have a place to stay in the community. It is crucial to establish protocols with local health providers to ensure access to testing, medical consultation and treatment of all residents in immigration facilities,” said the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.

“Human rights must be at the centre of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Inclusive measures aimed at protecting the rights and health of the whole population, including all migrants and trafficked persons, regardless of their migration status, are urgent and necessary, and can contribute to the effectiveness of the general national measures against COVID-19,” the UN experts said.


COVID-19 – OAS :: Indigenous Peoples

Statement from the OAS General Secretariat on the Situation of Indigenous Peoples during the COVID-19 Crisis
Organization of American States
April 2, 2020
The OAS General Secretariat calls on member states to pay special attention to their indigenous populations during the health crisis caused by COVID-19.

Considering the double situation of vulnerability suffered by indigenous communities due to their historical marginalization and geographic isolation, we urge local, regional, and national authorities in each member state to work in coordination with specific protocols that aim to protect the health and well-being of their indigenous population from an intercultural approach, as established in the Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations, approved in 2007, and the American Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the Organization of American States, approved in 2016.

The General Secretariat also urges member states to generate specific programs and policies to sustain the economies of their indigenous communities with the aim of mitigating the social and economic consequences of the pandemic.

Finally, the General Secretariat invites member states and the international community to maintain, during this global crisis, the spirit of unity, solidarity, and reciprocity that has been the historic guiding principle of indigenous peoples.