[Statement] Stop endangering migrant workers health and lives -KANLUNGAN
By now most of the world living with the pandemic is familiar with the concept of physical distancing as a key intervention to prevent the spread of the highly infectious virus and deadly COVID-19 disease.
People can catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick – World Health Organisation (WHO).
Despite this, there are numerous pictures of low-wage migrant workers being rounded up in immigration raids or crammed into transport, queues, accommodation, or detention – at dangerous risk to their health and others.
The dangerous politics of immigration control and social exclusion are laid bare. States have produced a context where migrant workers are rendered vulnerable.
There appears to be little effort by some authorities to even attempt to safeguard these workers by introducing physical distancing (including by reducing numbers of people) to minimize the person – person transmission of highly infectious COVID-19. This callous attitude and discriminatory action towards their health, safety, and lives is truly a low point for everyone in these societies.
Many low-wage migrant workers are anxious about becoming unwell, especially because they fear for their future economic security in the global recession.
All tools to reduce disease transmission must be employed to keep migrant workers safe including the urgent provision of quality accessible health information about how to stay safe and protect others, a sanitary environment, provision of free soap for frequent handwashing to prevent the spread of the disease; sufficient healthy food to boost their immune system; access to free voluntary COVID-19 tests and treatment. (Healthcare should have a firewall from immigration authorities).Physical distancing must not be neglected in the response.
During the global spread of a disease, a pandemic – governments are obligated to ensure the protection of human health and the fundamental right to human life.
Governments that are negligent in their duty to protect migrant workers’ health and dignity must be condemned. Stop the xenophobic scapegoating of migrant workers to deflect from government lapses in pandemic responses. Stop the technocratic obsession over COVID-19 statistics when politically motivated by a nationalist competition with other countries. Behind the numbers are the lives of people and their families – concentrate on that during the public health crisis.
State obligations under the fundamental right to health extend to all inhabitants and are not limited to citizens and residents. Migrant workers deserve and have a right to be fully included and protected in national pandemic preparation plans and responses.
An effective and just public health crisis response should be compassionate, guarantee health, safety and dignity for all and save lives
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