STRIKE ON MIGRANTS BY THE ORDEAL OF COVID-19
Author: Saina Rinu, IV year of Bcom, LLB (honours) from Government Law College, Ernakulam
While the pandemic affected the whole world regardless of boundaries, the consequences of government responses to a pandemic, such as to Covid-19, have deep implications for those assailable, such as the immigrants. All the areas of concern are affected by the pandemic in one way or the other. It has affected the Socio Economic, political, and health spheres of mankind. As the unpredicted act of the virus continues, migrants and refugees, an already vulnerable class of society, are being most affected. Both the physical and mental health of the population is being affected. Preparedness, prevention, and control of the virus is the most important function of public health protection. The government, and international organizations like WHO, are working on short and long-term plans to improve the physical and mental health of migrants and refugees. The protection of migrants’ health is vitally important for the protection of public health as a whole. Every country is instructed to take direct steps to make sure that every person is taken care of including the refugees. Economy, education, health, and security of income should be ensured to them.
THE NEED FOR PRIORITISING MIGRANTS
Ensuring that migrants and refugees are not left behind is essential in achieving the objectives of the global frameworks such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees. The very first repercussion of the pandemic was the constraint in mobility to restrict further transmission of the virus due to which an exceptionally large population of immigrants were stuck in the recipient countries. As the whole idea of migration relates to the shifting from a place to another, the migrant community is affected directly. This has resulted in a very pathetic state for them to even access the basic amenities. As they are restricted from returning to their home countries, they even suffer from bad mental health. As a community deprived of even the basic needs, they are a community to be given preference by the host countries and the home countries. Immigrants are one of the most vulnerable communities which are being affected in every aspect of life and are curtailed of basic rights including legal requirements such as visa processing and other socioeconomic, political, and health issues.
The uneven situation due to the unpredicted crisis has disturbed the normal existence of the immigrants and it is the core reason behind stressing the importance of considering immigrants as the most affected group in the society. As the spread of the virus is the greatest issue, it has affected the very existence of immigrants due to the rising bias even by the preconception that the migrants are the core reason for the disease spread. The above reasons explain the need for giving priority to the migrants.
HEALTH- THE CRUCIAL AREA OF FOCUS
Health and healthcare facilities are the extremely basic right that is to be provided to every human being regardless of the boundaries. Going through a pandemic like COVID 19, the governments are responsible for healthcare including recognition and proper cure. Being the most vulnerable community, most of the time migrants are deprived of their legal right of exposure to proper healthcare. This situation should come to an end by providing proper health facilities to them. Health is one of the basic needs for people globally. But people are at times rejected from getting proper healthcare or health insurance in countries with no proper administration. During the time of such a crisis, the migrant population may not be financially stable due to which it is the responsibility of the host countries to provide proper health facilities. The unhygienic and congested living habitats for the low-income migrant workers make them more prone to get affected by the pandemic through direct contact. There may also be issues related to the proper facilitations to basic needs which add on to the already existing crisis.
Most of the workers in remote areas would be working in the informal sector due to the lack of proper education and linguistic barriers which also makes it difficult to communicate with them the proper measures to be adopted for preventing the further spreading of disease. Due to the daily waged work getting suspended due to lockdown or cutting down the working hours of companies, they will not get access to the proper food supply or healthcare which will worsen the infection of the virus.
The increased stress and poor mental health would also result in domestic violence and increased intake of intoxicants which is also a social issue. The governments are responsible for taking care of security, health, and the dignity of migrants. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are reports regarding increased infectious diseases among the refugee population due to overcrowding and lack of access to personal preventive pieces of equipment, and even reports of sexual assaults. The vulnerable among the vulnerable are also to be considered and should be provided with proper treatment such as aged people, people with disabilities, women, and children.
There is a steep downwards in the number of jobs and working hours according to ILO report 2020. This has resulted in a financial crisis globally. Migrants working in the informal sector and those with temporary jobs are the most affected due to the massive drop in the economy. This irregular status due to the financial crisis has resulted in issues including sexual assault and domestic violence. There is also a struggle in finding new jobs due to the health issue prevailing due to which even the basic needs become unaffordable, which leads to curtailment of their basic human rights and even would be forced to evil practices like child labour. Women and children would be prone to sexual exploitation. All this would reflect on the education of children too. The social and economic situations are complimenting each other which worsens the scenario.
Women, already being a vulnerable group, can be vulnerable among vulnerable in the case of migrant women. There are many problems already faced by women, including gender-based discrimination and violence. During every crisis, it is reported that violence against women is increased. This is due to the patriarchal setup in which women come to the lowest level of the pyramid where they are forced to be submissive and suffer. Statistics show there is a steep rise in domestic violence, abuse, and sexual assaults during pandemics of every period. Overloading of work at the household due to the full-time presence of the family members results in mental stress in women. Also, the women migrant workers are vulnerable to abuses and even survival sex due to loss of employment economic crisis. Even an increased number of women trafficking is being reported connected with the pandemic. Women migrants who work as domestic workers are mainly prone to these kinds of abuses which results in both their physical and mental health. Increased risk of getting affected by the pandemic is reported among migrant household women because they are considered to take care of members of the household. Abusive employers are another reason behind the sufferings migrant women face. Employers are the only source for them to access even the basic facilities including healthcare and thus they prefer not to oppose or fight back. There is also unavailability to access helplines or other support systems without depending on these abusive employers.
STUDIES & RECOMMENDATIONS
According to the ILO press briefing, millions of migrant workers are globally affected by this crisis. Seasonal workers, refugees, and migrants are important in studying the impacts of COVID 19. The study becomes important as they are one of the main sources of remittance to many countries. They benefit both host and home countries and thus their protection in the short and long term becomes the responsibility of states. Socioeconomic protection and facility to find a new job should be ensured.
An alliance between the World Health Organisation, United Nations and Universities of Copenhagen, and Ghent University, Apart Together is an important international study to evaluate the consequences of COVID 19 on migrants. Social and psychological issues on migrants and mitigation of those are the main goals behind this study.
Those studies help in prescribing the best solutions and coping mechanisms that are to be adopted by the officials during and afterwards the pandemic. As we have discussed above, there are many issues faced by migrants during a pandemic. All of those are to be tackled through proper care by the policymakers. The following may be considered as some recommendations to improve the current situation of the migrant community. There are both immediate goals and those long-term.
IMMEDIATE MEASURES TO BE ADOPTED
Proper awareness is to be provided among the migrants about the seriousness of the issue and methods to prevent further spread.
Provide migrants and refugees proper ingress to healthcare including timely testing and treatment.
Provide adequate care to women and children and other vulnerable groups among the vulnerable.
Social evils like sexual assault and trafficking must be handled with proper care during the crisis.
Spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and lack of proper reproductive health must also be considered with amble care as it results in long-term issues.
Psychological care must be provided to all the distressed communities of migrants.
Provide proper law enforcement by which their legal rights are satisfied.
LONG TERM GOALS
A proper system to cope up with any unpredicted health crisis must be formulated at the international level for helping migrants.
Migrants who lose their job due to the pandemic must be provided with jobs as the crisis ends.
Affordable global healthcare plans must be formulated for migrants across nations.
Inclusive long-term social protection policies must be adopted to reduce social stigmas and to uplift the dignity of migrants.
Proper education policies must be introduced for migrants.
The people with no proper citizenship or migrants living in nations with a low standard of living must be provided with proper policies regarding their healthcare and other basic amenities.
Age and gender-sensitive policies must be made to improve the situation of old aged, disabled, women, and children.
About 300 million people are working as migrants globally. They play a huge role in the international economy regarding remittance and transnational collaborations. As discussed above, many economic, personal, social, situational, and structural factors affect their existence. As the pandemic affects worldwide, already vulnerable communities become most prone to its risk. By this study, we aimed at evaluating different sectors of life that are being affected including health, society, economy, women, and other vulnerable groups, etc. All the issues related to the pandemic, whether personal or societal, could be tackled by proper care from people and the policy-making level too. Human rights being one of the essential topics to be considered in the modern world, it is crucially important to aim at the migrants not only as an economic source but also as the very individuals. Proper treatment of the migrant community would help in maintaining a high standard of living and most importantly, to reduce gender-based and other kinds of exploitations. Discrimination, being one of the important issues, is the focal point in further development. Both long-term and short-term plans are to be adopted, which would help us in the betterment of the current situation now, and in future too which would help us in building a global harmony.