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Migrants and refugees face similar health threats from COVID-19 as their host populations. However, because of their migratory movements, limited employment opportunities, poor living and working conditions, many have more health-related risks and vulnerabilities than the general population.
Migrants and refugees often face obstacles in accessing health care. Inaccessibility of services, language and cultural barriers, cost, the lack of migrant-inclusive health policies, the inability to affiliate with local health-financing schemes make it difficult for migrants and refugees to access treatment. If a migrant fears deportation, family separation or detention, they may well be less willing to access health care or provide information on their health status.
Many migrants and refugees are also excluded from national programmes for health promotion, disease prevention, treatment and care. This exclusion makes early detection, testing, diagnosis as well as contact tracing very challenging. The risk of COVID-19 outbreak and further spreading in these communities is particularly high and in some instances even overlooked. Migrants have also been blamed for spreading the virus and face stigmatization and discrimination on the basis of their citizenship.
Many migrants work in low-paid jobs that are dirty, dangerous and demanding. They often work for longer hours and in unsafe conditions but are less inclined to complain and consequently have worse work-related health outcomes. This is especially the case for migrants and refugees in precarious employment in the informal economy. In addition, refugees and migrants often live in conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to respiratory infections, including COVID-19. These include situations such as overcrowded living and working conditions, physical and mental stress, and deprivation due to lack of housing, food and clean water.
Governments need to review their national COVID-19 and emergency preparedness and response plans, national and local capacity and legal frameworks for providing health services to refugees and migrants.
[Guidance]: WHO – Preparedness, prevention and control of COVID-19 for refugees and migrants in non-camp settings. _ pls add the PDF
[Press release]: OHCHR, IOM, UNHCR and WHO, The Rights and Health of Refugees, Migrants and Stateless Must be Protected in COVID-19 Response
[Article]: WHO - COVID-19: ensuring refugees and migrants are not left behind
[Article]: The Lancet - Refugee and migrant health in the Covid response
[Article]: JURIST - Refugee Rights and Health: The Impact of COVID-19 on Refugee Camps
[Article]: Foreign Policy - Amid Coronavirus Spread, Host Countries Ignore Refugee Health at Their Own Peril
[Article]: The Guardian - 'Being prepared for the worst' is nothing new for immigrants during Covid-19