HOW does this impact the migrant community?
Over the past few months, the world has shut down. The COVID-19 global pandemic has caused the sickness and deaths of thousands of people. As we all worry for the health and safety of our loved ones, we often forget to think of those most in need. Migrants face the same danger of exposure as we do, but their poor working and living conditions, as well as the circumstances of their journeys, make them even more vulnerable. According to the Migration Data Portal, migrants account for at least 8% of the population in 8 of the 15 countries with the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases. Those of us reading this are fortunate enough to have access to the internet, and are most likely at home. We are able to quarantine at home and safely distance ourselves from others. Migrants in overcrowded detention centers, refugee camps, or migrant labor camps are unable to take these steps to keep themselves safe. There are several factors which can increase a person’s health vulnerability. Socioeconomic status, poor environments, restrictions to health services due to immigration status, and cultural/linguistic barriers are all obstacles that face migrants. Most migrants lack or do not have proper health insurance, which prevents them from getting proper care once sick, or from obtaining proper preventative measures. Migrants may not seek help from medical facilities for fear of deportation. Travel restrictions have been put in place to keep people safe. Unfortunately, these conditions have adversely affected many migrant workers, who need to travel to or for work. Migrant families may be separated, unable to return home before the restrictions were put in place. Even after the pandemic, the migration process and assistance to asylum seekers will be slowed down. Well before this year, migrants faced xenophobia and hatred, from politicians and the general public. This will not end when the pandemic does. COVID-19 has caused fear and uncertainty, just like migrants face everyday. Instead of using the pandemic to excuse prejudice and fear of the other, we should take this opportunity to empathize with the daily struggles of displaced people around the world.