Migrants, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees face considerable risks. By way of background, migrants are people who leave their usual place of residence to settle temporarily or permanently and for various reasons, either in another region within the same country or in another country, thus crossing an international border. Refugees are people who are outside their country of origin because of fear of persecution, violence or other circumstances that have seriously disrupted public order and who therefore require international protection. Internally displaced persons are people forced to flee within their own country, for example, as a result of conflict, violence, human rights violations or disasters. Confined to camps or settlements, or living in
overcrowded urban areas in poor sanitary conditions, with little or no health services, those confined to migrant detention centres and other places where migrants and refugees are deprived of their liberty are particularly at risk.
State of play
Migrants and refugees often face obstacles in accessing health care, including language and cultural barriers, lack of access to information, discrimination and xenophobia. Sometimes migrants in an irregular situation are unable or unwilling to seek medical care or provide information about their health status because they fear or risk being detained, deported, vilified through hate speeches or penalized because of their vulnerable situation.
What measures should be taken by the public authorities?
States should take special measures to include migrants, internally displaced persons and refugees in their preventive and response actions related to COVID-19. These measures should include access to good information, testing and health care for all these vulnerable groups. This includes equity in the distribution of food and other essential services, in order to avoid any discrimination or harmful speech against them.
The role of the international community
International support is urgently needed to help host countries scale up services for migrants, IDPs, refugees and local communities and to include them in national prevention and response systems. Otherwise, their health status may deteriorate and hostility and stigmatization may increase. Specific measures must also be taken to combat stigmatization and hatred towards this vulnerable group.
Actions to be taken on social networks
On social networks, the propagation of hate speeches of all kinds and disinfodemia are specifically legion with regard to refugees and IDPs. The public authorities should find ways to punish any form of production and dissemination of viral content and outrageous comments against this category of citizens. In some countries, the law is rigorously applied in proven cases on social networks such as Facebook, WhatsApp. Penalties such as imprisonment and fines should be applied more.