Refugees and migrants in times of COVID-19: mapping trends of public health and migration policies and practices
The first report of the newly launched Global Evidence Review on Health and Migration series (GEHM), written by Vincent Chetail provides an overview of the complex nexus of public health and migration policies amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This report is mapping national adaptation policies in response to the COVID-19 and identifies a broad range of good practices to protect the rights of refugees and migrants. While countries are facing unprecedented challenges, the need for a comprehensive and integrated approach to migration and public health policies is as pressing as ever. The overall picture of state’s policies remains, however, highly complex and disparate, as national reactions to the global pandemic vary considerably in both nature and scale, impairing, in turn, a truly coordinated and consistent response. With the spread of unilateral measures, refugee- and migrant-sensitive policies coexist with discriminatory practices, stigma and exclusions that compromise the rights of refugees and migrants. In investigating a broad variety of national policies and applicable standards, Vincent Chetail has identified and evidenced a significant range of good practices as the core components for an integrated approach to migration and public health policies. They include protection-sensitive access to territory, immigration status flexibility and non-discriminatory access to health care for all refugees and migrants.
Refugees and migrants have been disproportionately affected by both the direct effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictive migration measures put in place, which, in turn, have hampered coordinated and consistent public health responses. This report maps how the needs of refugee and migrant have been addressed in COVID-19 responses across countries and how these have varied considerably from inclusive policies to discriminatory practices. Many countries ensured access to health care for refugees and migrants regardless of migration status, and several countries also suspended forced returns and prioritized alternatives to immigration detention. An integrated approach to migration and public health policies covering protection-sensitive access to territories, a flexible approach to migration status and non-discriminatory access to health care is suggested as a policy consideration to uphold international conventions protecting the right to health without discrimination for refugees and migrants.
© World Health Organization 2021