The International Migrants Alliance – Europe (IMA-Europe) – a grassroots-led regional formation of organizations of and migrants, immigrants, refugees and displaced peoples – joins the world in its fight to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic exposed not only the flawed global health care systems of even the highly industrialized countries and their satellite states, but also laid bare the bankruptcy of capitalist neoliberalism and the need for system change. The inevitable collapse of financial markets and loss of jobs, personal incomes and life savings are causing untold anguish and panic around the world. A deep global depression is imminent.
We salute all the health workers and other frontliners, substantial numbers of whom coming from migrant and immigrant communities, who daily expose themselves to the risk of infection to serve those in need. We express our highest respect for those who have already fallen in the course of their service, and we mourn for the tens of thousands who have succumbed to the sickness.
Among the victims of this pandemic are destination countries with a dense population of migrants, refugees and displaced people. Grassroots organizations and their service providers from these communities are calling for access to social and health services and protection for these vulnerable groups most often overlooked by government policies responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
Many migrants, refugees and displaced peoples are also left to their own devices to procure personal protective equipment that can protect and safeguard their health, if they even have the means to get it. With the ‘users pay’ in place even on health services, they shoulder the expenses for individual protection given their meager salary and the increasing support they have to send to their families back home who are also facing similar difficulties due to the pandemic and government policies or lack of it.
In these difficult times, especially worrisome are the conditions of undocumented migrants who were already vulnerable even before the outbreak. Members of the IMA-Europe have reported that undocumented migrants in Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium and in other European countries where there is a highly militarized response to the crisis, fear being accosted and/or arrested on the streets for not having the proper identification, stay and work permits if they need to go to work or buy their provisions. This compounds their fear and anxiety of losing substantial ‘no-work no-pay’ income and the threat of losing their jobs.
But because of the pandemic, there is now an even more urgent crisis in the shortage of health workers and a dire need for them in many European countries including Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK. Deals are being brokered between many sending countries and EU member states to bring in nurses and health workers, farm and other frontline workers in order to respond to the shortage. And yet when they are brought in to do the same kind of job as local workers, they are paid less. They are also required to go through stringent requirements before they are given resident and citizenship rights. At the same time, discrimination, xenophobia and hate crimes are being fanned by rightist groups especially against Asian migrant and refugee communities who are unfairly profiled as virus carriers.
In the UK, Ireland and Spain, undocumented migrant workers and asylum-seekers, including those with professional medical training are already being recruited to work in care homes and hospitals in response to the medical emergency. In recognition of the vulnerable situation of these workers, Portugal*1 granted full citizenship rights to all migrants and refugees to allow them access to health care and financial aid during the pandemic. A similar call for temporary regularization of undocumented migrants is being made by French parliamentarians.
As we face the pandemic, we need to strengthen the solidarity among migrants, refugees and displaced people with workers and the local population in receiving countries and in the sending countries. We need to continue the fight not only against the virus but also against forced migration, capitalist exploitation, and imperialist plunder and aggression.
We need to call on policy-makers to ensure that during this pandemic, vulnerable communities of migrants, refugees and displaced people are protected and afforded social and welfare assistance in recognition of their sacrifices and contribution towards alleviating the current global health crisis.
The International Migrants Alliance (IMA)-Europe calls on all solidarity allies and friends of migrants, refugees and displaced peoples to demand –
– Regularization and full citizenship rights for all migrant workers, refugees and displaced peoples in the pandemic frontlines of Europe, ensuring their access to equal workers’ rights and social and welfare benefits, NOW!
– Equal access to health care, social and welfare assistance to communities of migrant, refugee and displaced peoples during the pandemic!
– The right to family reunification of migrants, refugees and displaced people!
– Universal right to health and public health for all and not for private profit!
– Bailout WORKERS, not multinational corporations!
– Sign and ratify ILO ( International Labor Organization) Domestic Workers Convention 189!
LONG LIVE INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY!
International Migrants Alliance (IMA) – Europe
Zaria Galliano Chairperson
*1 Schengen Visa Info, 2020. Portugal Grants Migrants and Asylum Seekers Full Citizenship Rights During COVID-19 Outbreak, www.schengenvisainfo.com/news/portugal-grants-migrants-and-asylum-seekers-full-citizenship-rights-during-covid-19/ Accessed, 13 April 2020.
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