The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)* for Mexico and Central America, on April 1, called on the governments of the countries to implement migration policies to protect migrants in the face of the health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In an official statement, issued by the head of the regional delegation of the ICRC, Jordi Raich, the international organization emphasized that these policies must “complement the public health objectives of each country to preserve the life, dignity and safety of all people.”
Raich expressed “concerns about the situation of migrants, prisoners, relatives of missing persons and communities affected by violence” and warned about their vulnerabilities to the novel coronavirus. He explained that these groups, in addition to being exposed to contagion like any other person, often have difficulties accessing the public healthcare systems, following hygiene and isolation measures and can also be victims of discrimination and violence.
“It is important to highlight that the presence of migrants does not generate a higher risk of contagion, they are exposed to the virus in the same way as nationals of any country,” said Raich.
In this regard, the ICRC urged the governments to assume responsibilities and ensure the protection of people in the face of the pandemic, who are on the move in their territory and returning to their places of origin.
Lorena Guzmán, the ICRC’s regional migration coordinator, also issued a statement affirming that “coordination between the authorities on both sides of the borders is necessary, in a spirit of solidarity rather than delegation of responsibilities, in order to identify accommodation options, detection and testing capacity, and confinement in the event of infection of an individual or a group of migrants by COVID-19.”
The ICRC is launching a campaign under the slogan “Humanity that alleviates” on digital platforms and social networks, in solidarity with the challenges faced by thousands of people who are forced to leave their lives and countries behind and embark on a perilous migration journey.
Vulnerability of the migrant population
The reality of the conditions in migrant detention centers and shelters is not unknown to the world. Migrants are often forced to live in very precarious conditions. More than often, they do not have access to basic hygiene and sanitary facilities such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, diapers, sanitary pads, clean cloths and medical care.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a contagious disease, overcrowding, lack of essential items, lack of basic hygiene and sanitary conditions in these centers can wreak havoc. These conditions make it impossible to heed the measures recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to stop the spread of the virus, such as social distancing and frequent washing of hands.
Several social and human rights organizations and activists in Mexico have denounced the lack of hygiene in the migrant centers in the country during the coronavirus outbreak.
Alejandra Macías Delgadillo, director of the Asylum Access Mexico, condemned the lack of a plan for attending to the migrant population. She demanded that the state institutions take necessary preventive measures in these facilities to avoid the spread of COVID-19 among migrants.
Other organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Mexico and Sin Fronteras Mexico have also requested attention and accompaniment for migrants.
*The ICRC is a humanitarian organization, ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence. It is actively participating in the global fight against the coronavirus disease, while demanding health protection for the people most vulnerable to this crisis.