#StayHome. A privilege not afforded to refugees and migrants on the routes

#StayHome – the trending motto overflowing our newsfeeds needs to be supplemented with: if you have one. Not all population groups have the luxury of staying at home in a safe environment, isolated from the pandemic. The latter is made evident by the often overcrowded refugee centres, which themselves present a “quarantine” for those whose visibility is often most disturbing and unwanted in society.

Migrant workers and migrants on the route are being trapped along the country roads, between national borders and in the poor suburbs of European cities. However, we should not forget that many workers at the frontline of the pandemic come from migrant groups: nurses, doctors, the care sector, cleaners, bakers … all the key people whose work is vital for preventing the complete shutdown of society. Their ceaseless work allows us to keep breathing!

Migrant workers are extremely valuable for the functioning of modern societies. The pandemic crisis therefore calls for a revaluation of work, including migrant work!

So, what is missing during the pandemic in relation to refugees and migrants on the move? I believe it is good protocols and scenarios. The answer to the question “what needs to be done and how in the event of an unexpected pandemic crisis?” was by no means clearly answered in European societies. So-called migration management was created ad hoc. 

Protocols are required on the day-to-day level, e.g. when a person is infected at a densely populated refugee center. Such protocols should set out the treatment for infected person and other people in the location, but also resettlement to other countries if needed and feasible. In both cases, care for refugees during the pandemic relies hugely on international solidarity. The same applies for migrants trapped in-between state borders and along migratory routes. 

It is not enough to urge people: “Wash your hands!” If you are living in a refugee centre, chances are you have no access to soap and sufficient clean water, as communicated by the NGOs and humanitarian workers from the field. 

Above all, migrants must be treated in the same way as citizens; this simple rule should be followed and basically all social players will be winners. Those who are in the application procedures should automatically be granted regular status through a shortened procedure or, by the rule they gain temporary residence permits which allow refugees to access public health.

Written by Simona Zavratnik 

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