#UNHCR; #SouthernnHemisphereWinter; #LatinAmerica; #DisplacedVenezuelans; #Covid19
Geneva, May 30 (Canadian-Media): As Latin America emerges as the new epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, warns of worsening conditions for displaced Venezuelans in the southern region of the continent as winter approaches, UNHCR reports said.
Venezuelan refugees and migrants collect blankets from UNHCR staff in Cusco, Peru, where night time winter temperatures fall to below zero. Image credit: © UNHCR/Andrea Diaz
In addition to health risks, COVID-related lockdowns and confinement measures have already resulted in severe hardship for Venezuelan refugee and migrants. Many have now lost their livelihoods and are faced with poverty, destitution, eviction, widespread hunger and food insecurity as well as increased protection risks.
As national capacities are stretched to breaking point, access to public health services and timely medical care is also a challenge, especially for those in an irregular situation.
UNHCR is worried that their plight could now worsen with the onset of winter as temperatures drop in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, which together host more than 1.5 million Venezuelans.
With the approaching cold weather, UNHCR is bracing for a deepening of the crisis. The winter season will considerably increase the need for humanitarian and medical assistance, including to respond to other types of respiratory diseases, such as influenza.
UNHCR expects an increase in the numbers of those that will now require emergency shelter and winter items such as blankets, warm clothing, medicine and fuel to heat their homes.
Shelter, food, hygiene kits and cash assistance are already critically needed for many vulnerable Venezuelan refugees and migrants living in precarious conditions, who are at risk of becoming homeless or living on the streets.
UNHCR is stepping up its response to face this double challenge. Together with partners, UNHCR is continuing to provide emergency shelters, rental subsidies, and other material assistance. UNHCR is also strengthening humanitarian partnerships to be able to provide essential healthcare for refugees in vulnerable conditions.
In the continent’s southern region, UNHCR is also delivering assistance through cash-based interventions to help refugees and migrants prioritise their most urgent needs during winter.
In Chile, almost 790 Venezuelan families have already received virtual multipurpose vouchers that enable them to buy products in local stores and supermarkets, including clothes, fuel or hot meals.
In Peru, where torrential rains and snow are expected during winter, UNHCR has prioritized support in refugee host regions, such as Cusco, which stands at 3,400 metres above sea level and where temperatures can drop to well below zero degrees Celsius.
So far, more than 2,000 basic-needs kits and 4,700 blankets have been distributed to vulnerable Venezuelans and their host communities, while cash transfers continue for those most at risk.
Winter assistance is also planned for vulnerable displaced Venezuelans in Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia as cold weather hits the region in the coming weeks.
UNHCR welcomes the recent commitments made on Tuesday at a virtual International Donors Conference for Venezuelan refugees and migrants. Donors at the conference committed US$2.79 billion to support refugees, migrants and host communities in countries across the region where Venezuelans have found safety, healthcare and jobs.
UNHCR, IOM, urge European states to disembark rescued migrants and refugees on board the Captain Morgan vessels
#UNHCR; #IOM; #EuropeanStates; #Covid19Pandemic; #RefugeeAid
Geneva, May 21 (Canadian-Media): UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), are calling on Malta and other European States to speed efforts to bring some 160 rescued refugees and migrants, who remain at sea on board two Captain Morgan vessels, on to dry land and to safety, UNHCR reports said.
The Mediterranean Sea. Image credit: © UNHCR/Markel Redondo
A separate group of 21 people, mostly families, women and children, were already evacuated and disembarked in Malta several days ago. It is important to disembark the remaining people as soon as possible, as they have been on board the vessel for some two weeks - the standard quarantine period for COVID-19 - without any clarity on disembarkation. It is unacceptable to leave people at sea longer than necessary, especially under difficult and unsuitable conditions.
Mediterranean States have been at the forefront of receiving sea arrivals in recent years. Their efforts, and those of NGO search and rescue vessels, have prevented many tragic deaths.
However, UNHCR and IOM are also deeply concerned about reports that States have been ignoring or delaying responses to distress calls, especially amid a sharp decrease in state led and NGO search and rescue capacity.
We remind States of their obligations under international law to immediately assist people in distress. These obligations cannot be traded away with the offer of fuel and aid. States must take every effort to promptly rescue people in distress, as a delay of even a few minutes could make the difference between life and death.
Public health measures such as mandatory, time-limited quarantines, medical screening and physical distancing must be applied without discrimination and within the specified national health protocol. States must continue to disembark people rescued at sea, in line with international maritime law obligations and ensure access to asylum and humanitarian assistance.
Reception capacities in some Mediterranean States are further challenged by necessary health measures put in place due to COVID-19. Recognizing this serious challenge, we have offered support to ensure the effective and speedy processing of new arrivals.
Prompt disembarkation must also be supported by tangible solidarity from other European States through a timely and predictable relocation mechanism and – once conditions permit – effective cooperation on returns to country of origin for those found not to be in need of international protection.
A clearly agreed system for post-disembarkation relocation is urgently needed if we are to finally move away from a perpetual cycle of negotiations and ad-hoc arrangements that put the lives and health of people at further risk.
The relocation of 17 people yesterday from Malta to France shows that solidarity at the time of COVID-19 is possible, with all necessary precautions and measures to ensure preventing further spreading of the virus in place.
UNHCR and IOM unequivocally reiterate that no one rescued at sea should be returned to Libya. The misery and risk to life posed by intensifying conflict, arbitrary detention and widespread human rights violations, amongst other factors, mean it cannot be considered a place of safety. Direct or indirect State involvement through commercial boats in the return of rescued migrants and refugees to Libya may constitute a violation of international law.
#WHO; #UNHCR; #SolidarityResponseFund; #RefugeeHealth; #Covid19Pandemic
Geneva, May 22 (Canadian-Media): The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency today signed a new agreement to strengthen and advance public health services for the millions of forcibly displaced people around the world, UNHCR reports said.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and Director-General, World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sign a Memorandum of Understanding focused on the integration of refugees in national health preparedness and response plans globally. Image credit: © WHO/Christopher Black
The agreement updates and expands an existing 1997 agreement between the two organizations. A key aim this year will be to support ongoing efforts to protect some 70 million forcibly displaced people from COVID-19. Around 26 million of these are refugees, 80 per cent of whom are sheltered in low and middle-income countries with weak health systems. Another 40 million internally displaced people also require assistance.
For more than 20 years, UNHCR and WHO have worked together worldwide to safeguard the health of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. They have collaborated to provide health services to refugees in every region - from the onset of an emergency and through protracted situations, consistently advocating for the inclusion of refugees and stateless people in the national public health plans of host countries.
Today, the two organizations are working side by side to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that forcibly displaced people can access the health services they need, to keep safe from COVID-19 and other health challenges.
“UNHCR’s long-term partnership with WHO is critical to curb the coronavirus pandemic and other emergencies – day in, day out, it is improving and saving lives of millions of people forced to flee their homes,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. “Our strengthened partnership will directly benefit refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people, and those who are stateless. It leads to better emergency response and will make the best use of the resources of both our two organizations for public health solutions across all our operations globally.”
“The principle of solidarity and the goal of serving vulnerable people underpin the work of both our organizations,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We stand side by side in our commitment to protect the health of all people who have been forced to leave their homes and to ensure that they can obtain health services when and where they need them. The ongoing pandemic only highlights the vital importance of working together so we can achieve more.”
During Thursday’s signing UNHCR also joined the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The Fund was launched on 13 March and has so far raised US$214m to date. The Fund, first-of-its-kind, allows individuals, companies, and organizations all over the world to directly contribute to the global response being led by WHO to help countries prevent, detect and respond to COVID-19.
A US$10 million contribution from the will support UNHCR’s work on urgent needs such as risk communication and community engagement around hygiene practices; provision of hygiene and medical supplies and the establishment of isolation units in countries such as Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, South Sudan and Uganda. The funds will also support innovative global preparedness activities. “
By joining forces with the Solidarity Response Fund, UNHCR can work together on the ground with WHO to better ensure that the preparedness, prevention and public health response measures to COVID-19 are in place and that much-needed aid can reach refugees, displaced people and their host communities,” said Grandi. END This Press Release is available here For more information on UNHCR’s COVID-19 operations For information about WHO’s COVID-19 operations and work on Refugee and Migrant Health
#UN; #UNHCR; #NationalityLoss; #InternationalLaw
Geneva, May 22 (Canadian-Media): UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has today issued new guidelines on the loss and deprivation of nationality. The guidance is intended to assist governments and policy makers in interpreting relevant international law, UNHCR reports said.
UNHCR. Image credit: Twitter handle
“Decisions to deprive people of nationality have grave and far-reaching consequences not just for the individuals themselves but also for the broader community. It is by no means ideal nor in anyone or any State’s interest for people to be left stateless and on the margins of society,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs.
“While this is a practice that is increasingly being resorted to in most cases as a punitive measure, we hope this guidance will promote a principled and consistent approach to decision making, mitigating the risk of statelessness arising, in accordance with the law.”
The guidelines contain interpretive guidance on the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, one of two key statelessness treaties which together with the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons, provide the legal framework to prevent statelessness from occurring and to protect people who are already stateless. They also contain guidance on complementary international human rights law relevant to deprivation of nationality.
The loss of nationality refers to circumstances where an individual’s nationality may be automatically withdrawn by the operation of the law, for example where national law provides that nationality will be lost in situations of prolonged residence abroad. Deprivation refers to situations where a State actively takes nationality away from its citizens.
With the right to a nationality widely recognized as a fundamental human right, international law prohibits the arbitrary deprivation of nationality, including on racial, ethnic, religious or political grounds.
As a general rule, the 1961 Convention also prohibits the deprivation of nationality where it would leave a person stateless. There are very limited exceptions to this rule, including where nationality has been acquired though misrepresentation or fraud.
In specific circumstances, where countries expressly retained their right to do so when joining the Convention and provisions already exist in national law, behavior inconsistent with the duty of loyalty to the State may also be grounds for exception to the prohibition where, for example, it is seriously prejudicial to a State’s vital interests.
However, governments would still have a duty to determine whether decisions to deprive an individual of nationality would result in statelessness, as well as to ensure that procedural safeguards, such as the right to a fair hearing, are met.
In accordance with its mandate on statelessness, UNHCR provides guidance on relevant international law. The Guidelines on Loss and Deprivation of Nationality are the fifth in a series of guidelines on statelessness issued by the agency.
#UN: #UNHCR; #MigrantChildren; #Covid19Pandemic; #UNICEF
Geneva, May 21 (Canadian-Media): Migrant children forcibly returned from the United States to Mexico and Central America are facing danger and discrimination aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN reports said.
A boy plays in a UNICEF-supported shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, where migrant children from Mexico and Central America are provided psychosocial support. (June 2019) Image credit: © UNICEF/Balam-ha Carrillo
Returnees perceived to have the virus have been the target of violence and discrimination, while their reintegration is fraught with “major protection risks”, the agency reported on Thursday.
“For children on the move across the region, COVID-19 is making a bad situation even worse. Discrimination and attacks are now added to existing threats like gang violence that drove these children to leave in the first place”, said UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore.
“This means many returned children are now doubly at risk and in even greater peril than when they left their communities. It is never in a child’s best interest to be sent back to an unsafe situation.”
COVID-19 fear and confusion
Since March, the US authorities have returned at least 1,000 unaccompanied migrant children to Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, despite serious protection risks in their communities of origin.
Nearly 460 migrant children were also returned from Mexico to Guatemala and Honduras during this same period.
UNICEF said limited public information about COVID-19 testing, treatment and containment is sowing confusion and fear in the region. Some communities fear that returned families and children could be carrying the virus, prompting further stigmatization of migrants.
The UN agency has received reports of communities in Guatemala and Honduras barring entry to outsiders and strangers, including returnees, in efforts to prevent virus transmission. Some migrants have also been threatened with violence, while migrant reception and transit centres have been attacked.
The situation is further compounded by movement restrictions and lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) for staff working on child protection.
Support for governments and returnees
UNICEF urges all governments to halt pushbacks and deportations of unaccompanied or separated minors, as well as children with their families, without prior adequate protection and health screenings.
Authorities are also being called on to uphold children’s right to seek asylum and reunite with their families, and to ensure equal access to COVID-19 testing and treatment.
UNICEF is also working with governments across the region to shore up protection in numerous ways.
The agency is supporting Guatemala with providing accommodation and services for returned children, some of whom have tested positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine or isolation. These children are also receiving health care and other assistance, including with family tracing.
UNICEF is also ramping up efforts to protect migrant and returned children in El Salvador and Honduras, in addition to providing PPE for people working with them.
Meanwhile, authorities at Mexico’s northern and southern borders, are receiving assistance in implementing protection screenings. UNICEF also is working in shelters, providing psychosocial activities, hygiene kits and information.
#Montreal; #AsylumSeekers; #RefugeeClaims; #ImmigrationAndRefugeeBoardOfCanada
Quebec, May 20 (Canadian-Media): Asylum seekers in Montreal had been contributing to Quebec's economy during the COVID-19 pandemic by working in essential services, in meat-packing plants and warehouses, or taking care of elderly patients in long-term care homes, media reports said.
IRBC. Image credit: Facebook page
In spite of their dedication and hardwork, refugee claims of nearly 30,000 asylum seekers who crossed into Canada between 2017 and December 2019 are still waiting to be heard, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada's latest figures revealed.
Others whose claims have been rejected have applied for permanent residency on humanitarian grounds.
Community organizers, advocates and opposition politicians in both Quebec and Ottawa as well as Guillaume Cliche-Rivard, the president of Quebec's association of immigration lawyers, had been urging federal government to o create a special program granting permanent residency to those working on the front lines.
Although the motion was favored by the Quebec's three opposition parties, the Liberals, Québec Solidaire and the Parti Québécois, but it was voted down by Premier François Legault's majority Coalition Avenir Québec.
Nevertheless, a video paying tribute to asylum seekers in essential jobs was released by a group of activists, artists and social entrepreneurs over the weekend, which appeared on Haiti's National Flag Day on Monday, the same day as Journée des Patriotes in Quebec this year.
"Both celebrations are about liberation movements," said Fabrice Vil, a Montrealer of Haitian background and the founder of Pour3Points, an organization that trains sports coaches to help support kids struggling at school and at home.
"The current pandemic is really showing that we all depend on each other — and that there are people that sometimes we don't see as being relevant to our own lives who are currently sacrificing their own lives to support the collectivity," Vil said.
#UN; #UNHCR; #Covid19Pandemic; #SouthAmerica; #TIFF
Geneva, May 19 (Canadian-Media): A Brazilian filmmaker is hoping that the uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic will generate more empathy and solidarity towards others, including refugees, an optimistic position also held by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in the South American country, UN reports said.
During one year the documentary followed the lives of Syrian student Ibrahim (left) and Iraqi physiotherapist Qutaiba (right). Image credit: Juan Sarmiento
Karim Aïnouz is the director of "Central Airport THF", a documentary which describes the situation of asylum seekers sheltered in the former Tempelhof Airport, in Berlin, and is now available on streaming platforms.
Built in the 1920s, the airport of gigantic proportions was renovated in the 1930s by the Nazi regime. Decommissioned in 2008, it served as a shelter for asylum seekers between 2015 and 2019, and has since been transformed into a public park.
The documentary follows the lives of young Syrian student Ibrahim, and Iraqi physiotherapist Qutaiba, over the course of a year. While undergoing interviews, German classes, and medical exams, they attempt to deal with homesickness, and the anxiety generated by the possibility of deportation.
Mr. Aïnouz believes it is possible to draw some parallels with their situation, and the experience of the billions of people currently confined to their homes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, who are facing financial difficulties and the fear of infection.
"This inability to know what the future holds, the level of uncertainty and the fact that the decision regarding their future is no longer theirs, the situation is similar to what the former refugees were going through at that time", said Mr. Aïnouz in an interview with the United Nations, in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.
"There's also a lesson of humility. They are people who have nothing, who have lost everything they had. They only have 'from now on'. So, I thought it would be interesting to show the film at this specific time", he said. The documentary was originally scheduled to open in Brazilian cinemas on 26 March 2020 but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was made to release it directly to streaming platforms.
For the filmmaker, the documentary not only enables viewers to put themselves in the place of refugees during the current crisis, but also to relate to all of society’s most vulnerable people, such as the homeless and the poor.,
"In Brazil, when you contrast the living conditions of the poor neighborhoods with those that are very affluent, you could say that we have Brazilian refugees living within their own country", the filmmaker said. "I hope that this pandemic will bring us closer to the pain of these people, and enable us to be more supportive and less hostile".
Hope for a better future Despite living through a period of such uncertainty and waiting, when they are unable to return home or know for sure what their future will hold, the refugees portrayed in "Central Airport THF" remain hopeful that their lives will change for the better in the host community.
"When you see a 17-year-old boy who leaves his country, not because he wants to, but because he is escaping war, risking his own life to be in a place that is not his home, and he still has hope ... it is very important that we try to show compassion towards each other", says Mr. Aïnouz.
According to the filmmaker, the documentary presents an important lesson for all: people should have faith in the future and imagine that the future will certainly be better than the past. “Let’s imagine that our differences unite us rather than separate us” he says. “I hope the film causes a greater degree of empathy than it would have if it had been released at another moment”, he added.
UN support for refugees during the coronavirus crisis
Jose Egas, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Representative for Brazil, draws a parallel between the refugees in the film and the situation of refugees today.
“With a very sensitive eye, the director portrays a situation that, although very particular, reflects a global perspective. The isolation faced by the refugees in this documentary, as well as their wishes and resilience, can be easily extrapolated to the current reality. In this sense, we expect the documentary will touch hearts and minds, promoting better attitudes towards refugees”, said Mr. Egas.
Several countries in the region have now put in place special measures, allowing the hiring of foreign-qualified health professionals and technicians, including those awaiting licensing or whose certification is yet to be validated by host countries. Other states have adopted expedited recognition processes, to fast-track their inclusion in national health responses.
Thousands of refugee and migrant health workers are now working with national health systems responding to the pandemic, while many more stand ready to support and give back to the communities sheltering them.
As COVID-19 cases increase by the day and already over-stretched health systems strain under mounting pressure, UNHCR is supporting these efforts that tap into the skills and resources that refugee medics can provide.
#UN; #UNHCR; #Rohingya; #Covid19Response; #Bangladesh; #IPC; #PPE
Geneva, May 16 (Canadian-Media): UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and partner organizations have further intensified their COVID-19 response in the Rohingya refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar area of Bangladesh, following the first confirmed case of coronavirus among the refugee population yesterday, UNHCR reports said.
A Rohingya refugee family in Kutupalong camp, November 27, 2018.
Image credit: © UNHCR/Roger Arnold
Since March, UNHCR and partners have been supporting the Government of Bangladesh primarily in COVID-19 preparation and prevention efforts. With this first confirmed case, response mechanisms have now been activated and will require additional international support.
According to the Government of Bangladesh, one Rohingya refugee has tested positive for COVID-19 in the Kutupalong refugee settlement in Bangladesh. In addition, one member of the local Bangladeshi host community has also tested positive. Both had approached health facilities run by humanitarian partners, where samples were taken. These were subsequently tested in the IEDCR Field Laboratory in Cox’s Bazar.
Following the laboratory confirmation, Rapid Investigation Teams have been activated to investigate both cases, initiate isolation and treatment of patients as well as tracing contacts, quarantine and testing of contacts as per WHO guidelines.
Testing began in the Cox’s Bazar District in early April. As of yesterday (14 May), 108 refugees have been tested.
There are serious concerns about the potentially severe impact of the virus in the densely populated refugee settlements sheltering some 860,000 Rohingya refugees. Another 400,000 Bangladeshis live in the surrounding host communities. These populations are considered to be among the most at risk globally in this pandemic. No effort must be spared if higher fatality rates are to be avoided in overcrowded sites with limited health and water and sanitation infrastructure.
In support of the government-led public health efforts to curb the spread and impact of the pandemic, since March UNHCR and partners have carried out a range of preparedness and prevention measures. Established procedures have been put in place to respond to suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the host as well as refugee population of Cox’s Bazar. Health staff in all clinics within the camps have been oriented on Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), including the appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
250 clinical focal points have been trained on Early Warning Alert and Response System (EWARS). Over 3,000 refugee volunteers have received training on COVID-19 and work in the camps to ensure key messages are shared with refugees, including community health workers and Protection community outreach workers, as well as Imams community leaders and civil society groups.
Communications are being shared in camps and host communities through radio spots, videos, posters, and messages in Rohingya, Burmese and Bengali languages explaining how the virus spreads, how people can protect themselves and their families, how to recognize symptoms and how to seek care.
Hygiene promotion has been stepped up in the settlements, and all partners are ensuring that water and soap is readily available to all. Additional measures, including increasing the number of hand washing facilities in distribution centres, health points, nutrition, and other places where we deliver services are underway. Humanitarian partners continue to advocate for re-establishment of internet connectivity within the camps, to ensure that all refugees have adequate access to information, and to enable communication between partners.
All water and sanitation, and health partners carry out regular hygiene promotion activities within the camps. Efforts are underway to clean and disinfect communal areas and neighbourhoods throughout the camps, while social distancing measures have been put in place at all distribution points, as well as mandatory handwashing. Establishment of Isolation and Treatment Centers (ITCs) – dedicated to the management of severe cases in existing health facilities and in new sites continues – is underway and continues to be an urgent priority.
Despite the efforts that have been carried out to lay the ground to respond to the presence of COVID-19 in the refugee settlements, this response phase now requires concerted action and cooperation to ensure prompt treatment for patients, inform and communicate effectively with communities, and limit further spread.
Timely and flexible support from governments, private sector and individuals for ongoing refugee operations and host communities programmes as well as for Covid-19 response in Bangladesh and elsewhere remains critical. The Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis is currently just 26 per cent funded.
Millions of migrants across Russia, Central Asia, ‘teetering on the brink’, as UN launches urgent appeal
#UN; #IOM; #UNHCR; #RussianFederation; #Poverty; #UNAid; #Russia; #CentralAsia
Geneva, May 16 (Canadian-Media): The International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched an urgent $7 million appeal on Thursday, to ease the impact of COVID-19 on migrant communities in five Central Asian countries and the Russian Federation, where the pandemic is pushing a growing number of migrant workers into poverty, media reports said.
Children play at the multi-ethnic Krupskaya School in the town of Nookat, Osh oblast, Kyrgyzstan. (November 2010). Image credit: OCHA/Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia
The appeal aims to help thousands who are stranded in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It was launched virtually by more than 100 representatives from donors, embassies, migration experts and Governments, together with senior IOM staff in Vienna, Moscow, Nur Sultan and other regional capitals.
Dramatic transformationThe advance of the new coronavirus is dramatically transforming the social and economic face of a region, that accounts for one-sixth of the world’s surface, and recovery will take years.
Remittance flows - the lifeblood of several regional economies - has slowed to a trickle, IOM says. Hundreds of thousands of jobs also have been lost abroad, with millions of families in danger of slipping rapidly into extreme poverty. Those migrants who do make it home, are returning to joblessness, stigma, and potentially, social unrest.
In one of the world’s most mobile regions, where millions migrate for work between Central Asia and the Russian Federation, more than 80 per cent of migrants surveyed by IOM and its partners, report either a reduction or total loss in their incomes.
Huge resources are needed simply to provide health care for the sick and ensure measures are taken to flatten the curve.
Migrants ‘ruthlessly exploited’
“We know from previous crises that migrants are ruthlessly exploited, by having their wages cut or being threatened with being reported to the authorities,” said Dyane Epstein, IOM’s Regional Director for South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “Some will be forced into the shadow economy, where they are further exploited, compromising their physical and mental health.”
IOM plans to provide support to Governments and communities dealing with the impact of disruption to labour markets and severely reduced remittance flows. “Our initial research shows that over 90 per cent of labour migrants will be unable to send remittances home,” warned IOM Sub-Regional Coordinator for Central Asia, Xeynal Hajiyev. “They have no savings and the industries they depend on are mothballed.”
Millions ‘teetering on the brink’
IOM Chief of Mission for the Russian Federation, Abdusattor Esoev, agreed that this represents a clear and present crisis. With 60 per cent of migrants unable to pay their rent and more than 40 per cent unable to afford food, “millions of people are teetering on the brink,” he said. “We can provide a safety net but the time to act is right now.”
Funds raised through the appeal will provide migrants – especially women and children stranded in destination and transit countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkey) with safe living conditions, information on COVID-19, protective masks and sanitizers, and access to health screening and online education for children.
IOM will also assist Central Asian migrants in returning to their homelands, reintegrating into their home communities and seeking alternative employment across the region.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of Friday, the Russian Federation has confirmed 252,245 cases of COVID-19 since 31 January; 2,305 people have died.
In Kazakhstan, 5,571 people have been infected and 33 people have died, according to WHO, while Kyrgyzstan has registered 1,082 confirmed cases and 12 deaths.
There are 729 cases in Tajikistan and 23 people have died from COVID-19. In Uzbekistan, the virus has infected 2,620 people and caused 11 deaths. WHO has not confirmed any COVID-19 infections or deaths in Turkmenistan, as of 15 May.
#UN; #Covid19Pandemic; #Bangladesh; #UNHumanitarian; #IOM; #Rohingyas; #WFP
Geneva, May 16 (Canadian-Media): After confirmation that the first cases of COVID-19 infection have been identified in a vast and overcrowded refugee camp in Bangladesh, UN humanitarians on Friday announced additional measures and appealed for funds to prevent the disease from spreading, UN reports said.
Rohingya refugees use a handwashing station, installed to help combat the spread of COVID-19 at a settlement in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Image credit: UNHCR
“There are serious concerns about the potentially severe impact of the virus in a densely populated refugee settlement, sheltering some 860,000 Rohingya refugees”, he said, speaking via videconference. “Another 400,000 Bangladeshis live in the surrounding host communities. These populations are considered to be among the most at risk globally in this pandemic.”
Concerted UN action
UN agencies have already put in place a series of concerted COVID-19 contingency measures in Cox’s Bazar, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
It has provided upgraded triage areas in 35 primary care facilities along with three isolation and treatment centres. Also nearing completion is a quarantine centre, large enough to accommodate 465 people and 250 beds for people suffering from severe acute respiratory infection.
Although the arrival of the pandemic was expected, it adds further pressure on extremely vulnerable individuals preparing for the approaching monsoon season.
Grim anniversary for Rohingya
This coming August marks three years since the mainly ethnic Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar fled violent persecution in neighbouring Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Last year, 16,000 people were affected in a single 24-hour period during one of the heaviest downpours.
To help, the World Food Programme (WFP) is busy clearing drains and stabilising slopes that have the potential to give way in heavy rain.
The agency has warned that COVID-19 threatens to reverse development gains made by Bangladesh in the last 50 years and has appealed for $320 million to help the most vulnerable.
$320 million needed for Rohingya, struggling Bangladeshis
Some $200 million of this funding is required for the agency’s COVID-19 response in Bangladesh and the remaining $120 million is needed to help the mainly-Muslim ethnic Rohingya for the next six months.
“Lockdowns and restrictions in movement are affecting livelihoods of millions across Bangladesh, especially daily wage earners like rickshaw drivers, day labourers who now find themselves unable to meet their basic needs”, said WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs.
Under WFP’s scheme, the funding will ensure food security for families in rural areas and urban slums, as well as day labourers.
In the meantime, the agency has maintained national distributions of fortified rice, cash transfers and nutrition programmes, to complement Government assistance.
It has also begun building storage areas for food and non-food items necessary for the COVID-19 response, including personal protective equipment, and is helping other humanitarian agencies by moving supplies into and around Bangladesh.