Basma Alawee is the State Refugee Organizer of Florida Immigrant Coalition in the USA. Ms. Alawee spoke about the Refugee Rights during the Pandemic. Today, nearly 80 million people are forcibly displaced, which is more than one percent of the world population. There are 26 million refugees and more than 4 million asylum seekers globally. Nearly 46 million people are internally displaced. Nearly 90 percent of refugees live in developing and low-income countries with the fastest growing infection rates, which makes refugees more vulnerable. During Covid-19, there is a lot of deficiencies in medical supplies, health services, and accurate information during the Covid-19 pandemic. Vaccine nationalism pose risks of limited access for refugees and migrant populations who are often not included in country specific pandemic reopening plans.
Refugees are impacted not just by Covid-19, but also by the fear that is causing around the world. In response to the pandemic, it is estimated that 164 countries across the globe have limited or cut off access to asylum. In some cases, governments have clearly weaponize public health concerns to advance nationalist political agenda, including the United States.
World Health Organization and the UN Refugee Agency are trying to partner with governments to strengthen public health services to millions of forcibly displaced people. UNHCR launched a global 255 million appeal to lessen the impact of Covid-19 outbreaks within refugee communities. Limited entry into and exit from refugee camps hinder efforts to allow refugee professionals within foreign nationals to serve as essential health workers. Read more…
The United States has resettled about three million refugees after the signing of the Refugee Act from the 1980 until 2016. The average number of yearly refugee arrival to the US was 95,000. This year’s cap was supposed to bring 18,000 refugees in 2020 but we have received 9,772 refugees due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Refugees face higher risks of getting Covid-19 due to the overcrowded housing, underlying health conditions, lack of access to health care, and being essential workers. For instance, it is widely covered by the media that many refugee workers have been affected by the outbreaks of the COVID-19 in meatpacking plants in the U.S. According to a study by the Refugees International, over 60 percent of employed refugees work in sectors highly impacted by the pandemic. Refugees who own small businesses have been deeply affected, too. In terms of resettlement and family reunification, there is a decline in refugee admission that means thousands of families in the US are still waiting to reunite with their loved ones. Refugees have been traumatized by quarantines that have negative effects on their mental health, too.
The U.S. government responded the Covid-19 pandemic with financial support, such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES ACT), the state and local relief funds, eviction moratoriums and expanding testing availability. However, these financial funds were not available to some of the refugee communities because the resources were limited. Refugees face barriers to access resources because of language barrier and fear of accessing these resources. There are other challenges with testing and treatment, increase in xenophobia and anti-Asian racism.
Many people do not know that refugees are also responding to the Covid-19 pandemic with community relief efforts by sending humanitarian aid to local governments. Refugee essential workers, doctors, and medical personnel are volunteering at Covid-19 testing sites. Many refugees and immigrants serving as health care workers, teachers, service workers, farm workers and more. Refugees are assets during the public health crisis being a part of the solution. Expanding economic inclusion benefits everyone, assistance to refugees enter the labor market and serves an essential worker role as doctors, nurses, caregivers, scientists, cleaners and more that benefits everyone.