Migration and Covid-19

In times of pandemic, everyone is at risk. And yet, pandemic is not necessarily a great equaliser: vulnerable people and groups such as migrants, asylum seekers and refugees have been disproportionately affected by the measures put in place by governments to deal with Covid-19.

Excluded groups have been left behind by governments’ responses to COVID-19 as control measures amplify existing health inequalities and put life-saving advice and care further out of reach.

The travel bans and border controls instituted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 jeopardised refugees’ access to international protection, bringing the right to leave any country and seek asylum into direct collision with the human right to life. From extended refugee camps lockdown to requirements to travel in order to fulfil requirements for their visa application, other measures have further endangered people’s health as well as their already precarious freedom of movement.

We have observed how many of the technologies used to combat the coronavirus pandemic, including monitoring and analysing social media posts, telecommunications location data, and the use of sensors, were first tested on refugees during the 2015 crisis, and have since developed into a surveillance architecture which is now being repurposed in the name of public health. And this trend continues, as we have seen proposals for apps or ankle bracelets to be tested on migrants and used to monitor them.

While governments announced measures to protect citizens, migrants, including economic migrants, migrant workers, asylum seekers, refugees, IDPs and stateless persons, workers have often been disregarded and instead targeted with more restrictive measures which are further limiting their enjoyment of their rights and freedoms.

08 Oct 2020
A gap in government guidance means that thousands of legal migrant key workers could be forced to choose between following new public health laws and destitution, according to Labour MPs and charities. They are warning that no recourse to public funds (NRPF) conditions, which apply to roughly 1.4
02 Oct 2020
The Home Office moved dozens of asylum seekers involved in a Covid outbreak more than 120 miles despite an enforcement order saying they should remain in self-isolation for 14 days, the Guardian has learned. Home Office contractors have been accused of being “beyond reckless” in their handling of
30 Sep 2020
Migrants seeking asylum in Britain could be processed offshore under plans being developed by Priti Patel. Officials have ruled out Ascension Island and St Helena as impractical because of their distance from the UK but the Home Secretary is still seeking a third country where asylum seekers could
19 Sep 2020
Thousands of asylum seekers currently accommodated in hotels are facing removal from the UK, the Home Office has announced. A letter from the Home Office, seen by the Independent, states that evictions of refused asylum seekers will take place “with immediate effect” and charities have reported an
30 Aug 2020
Human rights experts have accused the home secretary, Priti Patel, of ignoring legal guidance in an attempt to target child asylum seekers who cannot prove they are under 18. A letter from the Home Office, seen by the Observer, reveals that the government is putting pressure on social workers to
13 Sep 2020
Around 8,800 children have been deported from the United States along the Mexican border thanks to a new pandemic-related measure that functionally stripped the rights of those seeking asylum. Donald Trump’s administration has expelled nearly 160,000 people since the emergency order proclaimed by
15 May 2020
Many of India’s informal workforce of 450 million people - 90% of the total workforce - were abruptly closed out of their places of employment when prime minister Narendra Modi abruptly ordered a lockdown in April. Left without pay, unable to stay in their living conditions, and with only limited
16 Aug 2020
All migrants arriving in the UK since June have been ordered to quarantine, but a Border Force source said that little is being done to ensure the rules are followed and some in emergency accommodation are being given vouchers to go to the shops. Thousands of British tourists returning from France
29 Jun 2020
The pandemic has exacerbated the effects of the “hostile environment” on the UK’s undocumented migrants, many of whom have lost income, are working in unsafe and exploitative conditions, are scared to seek help even though the government has promised there will be no charging or immigration checks
22 Jun 2020
The work and pensions committee has said that the immigration rules that have left 1 million migrant workers in the UK at risk of destitution because they cannot claim universal credit should be suspended. The “no recourse to public funds rule” has left many foreign nationals facing a choice of stay
01 Jul 2020
A group of Democratic US Senators and Congressional Representatives have written to Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar asking for more transparency around the HHS Protect Now programme, which collects vast amounts of data, including coronavirus test results, from the CDC and state and
17 Jun 2020
By the end of March 2021 Eurostar will roll out a facial verification system in which passengers will send a scan of their passport and a selfie so that when boarding they can prove their identity by walking through a camera-lined “biometric” corridor instead of presenting their documents. The
07 Jul 2020
The Finnish government will not move forward with its plan to oblige unsuccessful asylum seekers to wear ankle monitors, Maria Ohisalo, the Minister of the Interior, stated on Tuesday. “It’s something that’d be difficult to carry out as it’s considered in the government programme,” she said. “The
06 Jul 2020

 

 

 

Greece has extended a coronavirus lockdown on its migrant camps for the fifth time. The move has prompted accusations that the government is using the pandemic to limit the migrants' movement. The Greek Migration Ministry announced on Saturday that the country's migrant camps would remain under
06 Jul 2020
Domestic abuse campaigners and victims have accused the government of not valuing the lives of migrant women in forthcoming legislation on the issue.They are urging the government to make “life-saving” changes to the domestic abuse bill, which will be debated for its final stage in parliament on
04 Jul 2020
The Santiago Court of Appeals has ruled that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot require migrants to sign a declaration saying they agree to not return to Chile for nine years. The government is now going forward with an appeal stating that this ruling contraditcs a 2018 resolution, says the
09 Jun 2020
Russian authorities are considering introducing an app that migrant workers will be required to download when they enter the country. Leaked details indicate that the app would contain detailed biometric data, health status, police records, and a “social trustworthiness” rating. It’s unclear whether
30 Jun 2020
The findings of Freedom from Torture’s report, based on reviews of transcripts of asylum interviews carried out by the Home Office in 2017 or 2018 and a series of focus groups and interviews involving 25 torture survivors who had attended asylum interviews, shows they were often prevented from
30 Jun 2020
Up to 30 charities and organisations have written to home secretary Priti Patel calling for a number of amendments on Tuesday - a year exactly until the scheme ends. Under current arrangements, EU citizens have been told to apply by June if they wish to continue living and working in Britain.The
21 Jun 2020
Although the Home Office does not record ethnicity data for detainees, analysis of nationalities of those recently held within the immigration detention estate found that citizens from countries with predominantly black and brown populations are held for substantially longer periods than those from
22 Jun 2020
Immigration rules that have left 1 million migrant workers in the UK at risk of destitution because they cannot claim universal credit should be suspended on public health grounds during the pandemic, a cross-party group of MPs has recommended. The work and pensions select committee said the no
09 Jun 2020

On May 29, Russian state media reported that the authorities are considering introducing an app that migrant workers would have to download when they enter the country, once the borders re-open after the COVID-19 lockdown. Little is known about the proposal. But the few details that have been leaked to the media, coupled with Russia’s longstanding record of racial profiling, other racism against migrants, and recent developments in the “surveillance state” are grounds for serious alarm.

 

Writer: Damelya Aitkhozhina

Source: Human Rights Watch

22 May 2020
Excluded groups such as sex workers and asylum seekers are being left behind in the UK’s COVID-19 response as control measures amplify existing health inequalities and put life-saving advice and care further out of reach. The closure of services and some GP registrations, a lack of access to
16 Jun 2020
South America has become the scene of one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent times. The crisis involving migrants and refugees from Venezuela involves children, adolescents, and young people who have left their country of origin to settle in surrounding countries, either due to political or
28 Apr 2020
Many of the technologies used to combat the coronavirus pandemic, including monitoring and analysing social media posts, telecommunications location data, and the use of sensors, were first tested on refugees during the 2015 crisis and are now being repurposed in the name of public health. In 2019
24 Apr 2020
Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Jamaica, and Ecuador have all asked the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to screen migrants in detention for COVID-19 before deporting them. At least 85 deported Guatemalans have tested positive, accounting for about a fifth of all the cases reported in
Singapore has launched a new FWMOMCare mobile app for workers to record daily symptoms and report their health status. Reporting symptoms prompts the worker to seek medical assistance; a doctor will also be alerted and call the worker within 30 minutes for a teleconsultation. Employers are told to
25 May 2020
As part of a survey of the human rights compliance of contact tracing apps Amnesty International's Security Lab discovered that security vulnerabilities in Qatar's mandatory contact tracing app, EHTERAZ, would have allowed attackers to access the personal information, including name, national ID
16 Apr 2020
The travel bans and border controls instituted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 jeopardise refugees’ access to international protection, bringing the right to leave any country and seek asylum into direct collision with the human right to life. Source: https://www.kaldorcentre.unsw.edu.au