Migration: Impact of COVID-19 on refugees

by | May 1, 2021 | Migration | 0 comments

Image: https://unsplash.com/@jricard


By Dany Lakkis

Refugees have been especially hit hard by the global outbreak of Covid-19. Refugee camps were already underfunded and barely liveable in; and with COVID-19 roaming around new basic necessities such as masks, soap, and hand sanitizers couldn’t be allocated properly to the refugees.

A 30-year old woman who fled from her war-stricken country of Sierra Leone and is living in a refugee camp in neighbouring Niger was interviewed about her living conditions. She went on to explain that the migrants were all sharing one water source and toilet and soap was not given to them. This contributed vastly to the spread of COVID-19 in refugee camps. Studies in numerous OECD countries found that the risk of contracting COVID-19 was more than twice as high for migrants than for the native born thus showing the result of the inadequate support given to them in refugee camps.  Moreover, COVID-19 infecting migrants is very dangerous as a majority of them already suffer from a sickness/disability, malnutrition and fatigue making them more vulnerable to die and/or be sent back to their country. Furthermore, on a more economic note, most of the refugees living in camps had regular day jobs from which they could earn income; but with lockdown and most places getting shut down most o them were left unemployed and having to rely solely on government help which was nowhere near enough for them to get an adequate amount of their basic needs (food, water, clothes, hygiene products…). For example, Nick Mbourou Essonghe who fled Gabon due to his political affiliations came to the UK in 2017 and was living in London. Here, the UK government gave him 37.75 GBP a week to live with which was nowhere near enough to live in the UK, especially London. Moreover, after COVID-19 and him being left unemployed he was given a mere 1.85 GBP extra a week meaning virtually no help.

Furthermore, refugees wanting to flee their country were impeded greatly by COVID-19 due to most of the countries’ borders being completely shut (couldn’t go out of their country or into other countries), effectively trapping them in a war ridden/ unsafe country. Now why are migrants treated so bad and seem to be perceived as ‘less important’ humans? A large factor is the global institutional racism in wealthy white western countries. Here, the main priority seems to be keeping the (mostly white) upper/middle class rich at the expense of the poor. This is proved right by the fact that social mobility in the UK has stayed the same since the 1970’s. Moreover, this is seen through the lack of funding given to inner city state schools filled with ethnic minority pupils causing them to underachieve and making them more likely to embark on a life of crime. Also, a really interesting concept explaining why migrants are treated worse than normal people in COVID-19 times especially is due to the fact that the media passes on an ideology that Western lives are more important. Examples of this is the shunning out and lack of media light shed on atrocities happening daily in the middle east (Palestine especially) whilst a minor event in the UK/US gets constantly broadcasted.

Overall, migrants have been the worst hit by COVID-19. Whatever low paying job they had has been stripped away from them meaning that they have to rely solely on government expenditure in a time where the main priority is spending on healthcare and furlough schemes, meaning that they got little to no support. Moreover, those migrants infected with COVID-19 don’t have access to proper healthcare and are more likely to be ‘high risk’ meaning that the people most in need of hospital beds aren’t receiving them.










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