Problems of refugees in a pandemic
As the world is dealing with the COVID-19 epidemic, the condition of the refugees stays a problem. Different regions of the world have different immigrants and displaced people who are categorised under the category of refugees. Although refugees are given shelter in the asylums and given security, in this pandemic, the world is facing devastating problems by every sector. According to a World Food Program (WFP) estimate which was announced alongside the release of the Global Report on Food Crises, there is a rise of 265 million people facing acute food insecurity in 2020 which is an increase by 130 million from the 135 million in 2019, as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19.
All over the world, a series of lockdown and curfews have affected the refugee camps and asylums. Refugees have been facing problem from the government of the inhabiting countries. The lockdown has also made it difficult for displaced people to have economic stability in the time of the pandemic. According to Amnesty International’s research, the treatment to the refugees in the times of pandemic is inhuman. The necessities like food, water, and groceries are unavailable to the refugees in the areas of refugee campus. There are deliberate actions by the local authorities driven by discrimination and xenophobia, which needlessly place refugees at risk of starvation and disease.
There is no selective part of the world which is facing such a problem in the higher or lower number, the refugee crises have already been disturbing since the 2017 Rohingya crises. Unfortunately, this pandemic has come at a time when the world was just recovering from the refugee crises. It has become difficult for the non-governmental actors to safeguard the rights of the refugees in the time of lockdown because of such scarcity of resources and non-cooperation by the government.
In south-east Asia, Afghan refuge crises remains a big issue, Pakistan still holds 2 million Afghan refugees. As Pakistan is facing an economic problem in the lockdown, so do these refugees. Because of constant lockdown and curfews, the Pakistani economy has been affected harshly. A large majority of Pakistanis are daily wagers. It is estimated that there are 52 refugee camps across Pakistan solely having Afghan refugees, of which about 80 per cent are daily wagers – another reason why refugees are facing economical problem in the lockdown. Many Afghan refugees are not registered or do not have papers for being a recognized refugee which deprives them of the aid given by the (UNHRC).
On the other hand, India, which is facing an internally disable migrant refugees problem because of unemployment and economic distress of the lockdown, cannot be excluded from the list of countries facing immigrant refugee crises. One of the Rohingya refugees in India had reported to UNHCR that all of their income sources have been cut off because of lockdown, and whatever little he was earning has been ceased by the lockdown.
On 1st of June, the Rohingya refugee camp recorded the first confirmed death from COVID 19 in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is itself overpopulated. As the country was about to make its economic boot and strive to flourish, the pandemic came as a nightmare to that. On the other side, the country is facing a devastating consequence because of its overloaded Rohingya refugees. The virus has entered the refugee camps and because of these densely populated refugee camps, it is difficult for the authorities to identify and care the infected ones.
The Middle East
The middle east is no different to the consequences of the pandemic and lockdown in the world, and as similar to most of the countries the economic condition of the countries in the middle east is deteriorating. The Gulf countries have a high number of migrant workers in almost all the major sectors but in the time of the pandemic, the Gulf countries have failed to protect the rights of the migrant workers. Many countries like Syria, Yamen, and Iraq have already facing tensions on the borders and these countries have citizens who become refugees in neighbouring counties or in other asylums. The nine years of war has created a social, political, economic, tensions in the countries of the middle east. There needs to be better international support for the Syrian refugees in Lebanon in response to COVID-19, they don’t even have the basic enmities to tackle the regular life. They need preventative equipment like sanitizer and disinfectant so they can protect themselves from contracting the virus. Many migrant workers in the middle east face discrimination and bad treatment, these migrants are mostly domestic help, drivers and housekeepers. Most of them had plans to go back to their homeland and restart their lives, but apparently have dropped their plans because of COVID-19.
Conclusion: A possible solution
Certainly, these are horrifying times for humanity, and the COVID- 19 crisis has affected many countries economically socially and politicly. As crises widen its reach to different spectrums of problems, the refugees become one of the most affected parties. With time, we must look out for solutions to resolve the problem. Curing the affected ones is indeed the aim, but other temporary reliefs, encouraging social distancing and to stop social gatherings or group gatherings temper reliefs are needed. Also, for effective tackling of the issue, activism in the time of COVID 19 needs to be remodelled. Refugees, displaced people and the migrant workers are the victims who have left their respective native lands because of some social, economic or political issues in search of stability. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, the same issues have made them rethink their decision and search for a new substitute, or probably even go back to their native countries. According to UNHRC, the Key Legal Considerations on access to the territory for persons in need of international protection in the context of the COVID-19 response clearly says that States are responsible for ensuring protection from refoulement to all persons who are within its jurisdiction. States have the sovereign power to regulate the entry of nonnationals, but international law protects the rights of refugees which may not prevent them from seeking asylum from persecution. Therefore, the right to asylum to the refugees cannot be denied. The host state has the responsibility to protect the rights of the refugees and to make ensure that there are adequate food water and other resources’ available to refugee camps. As the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres remarked, “we require new unity and solidarity to fight against global threats to lead greater humanity”.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aranya Chatterjee is pursuing B.A L.L.B from Bharati Vidyapeeth, Pune. His areas of interest are Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Human Rights Law. He has a propensity towards writing and research work, and he wants to justify his career as an attorney towards the pro bono needs of the society.
Varun Wahane is pursuing B.A L.L.B at Bharati Vidyapeeth, Pune. He has research experience on various aspects of international human rights and wants to explore more. His areas of interest are Constitutional Law and Human Rights Law. He enjoys researching and writing on various issues. He is also an avid reader and has an interest in history and polity.