Stranded Migrants are risk of COVID-19
Thousands of migrants have been stranded "all over the world" where they face a heightened risk of COVID-19 infection, the head of the UN migration agency International Organization for Migration (IOM) has said. IOM Director-General Antonio Vitorino said that more onerous health-related travel restrictions might discriminate disproportionately against migrant workers in future. "Health is the new wealth," Vitorino said, citing proposals by some countries to introduce the so-called immunity passports and use mobile phone apps designed to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
- In lots of countries in the world, we already have a system of screening checks to identify the health of migrants, above all malaria, tuberculosis... HIV-AIDS, and now I believe that there will be increased demands in health controls for regular migrants, he said.
- Travel restrictions to try to limit the spread of the pandemic has left people on the move more vulnerable than ever and unable to work to support themselves, Vitorino told.
- In South-East Asia, in East Africa, in Latin America, because of the closing of the borders and with the travel restrictions, lots of migrants who were on the move; some of them wanted to return precisely because of the pandemic.
- They are blocked, some in large groups, some in small, in the border areas, in very difficult conditions without access to minimal care, especially health screening.
- Turning to Venezuelan migrants, who are believed to number around five million amidst a worsening economic crisis in the country.
- The IOM highlighted the plight of migrants left stranded in the desert in west, central and eastern Africa, either after having been deported without the due process, or abandoned by the smugglers.
- The IOM's immediate priorities for migrants include ensuring that they have access to healthcare and other basic social welfare assistance in their host country.
- Among the UN agency's other immediate concerns is preventing the spread of new coronavirus infection in more than 1,100 camps that it manages across the world.
- They include the Cox's Bazar complex in Bangladesh, home to around one million mainly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar, the majority having fled persecution.
- Remittances have already seen a 30 per cent drop during the pandemic, Vitorino said, citing the World Bank data, meaning that some USD 20 billion has not been sent home to families in countries where up to 15 per cent of their gross domestic product comes from pay packets earned abroad.
- It is quite clear that health is the new wealth and that health concerns will be introduced in the mobility systems - not just for migration - but as a whole; where travelling for business or professional reasons, health will be the new gamechanger in town.
- Established in 1951, IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners.
- With 173 member states, a further 8 states holding observer status and offices in over 100 countries, IOM is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. It does so by providing services and advice to governments and migrants.
- IOM works to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.
- The IOM Constitution recognizes the link between migration and economic, social and cultural development, as well as to the right of freedom of movement.