Governments everywhere are telling residents to stay put, but their policies regarding some of the most vulnerable members of society raise a whole new series of risks.
PARIS — At a time when a third of the world is immobile, what happens to those who move by definition? Both domestic and foreign-born migrants, who have long struggled to find stability and security, are now even more vulnerable in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak and strict measures to limit movement. As governments scramble to create financial packages and deliver aid, some migrant groups are left further exposed, even as others are likely to benefit from new emergency measures:
Internal migrant workers in India are trekking back to their countryside origins — walking as far as 170 kilometers — because of the nationwide shutdown. "Hunger will kill us before the coronavirus," one migrant told Delhi-based The Wire.
Lisbon news site Observador reports that Portugal is granting temporary citizenship to all foreign migrants and asylum seekers currently applying for residency. They will remain citizens until at least July 1st. All visas that expired after February 24th are now valid until June 30th. The move ensures that all residents will have access to healthcare and social security, two crucial components to fight the virus.
In France, meanwhile, it's a mixed bag. Like Portugal, legal residents with expiring visas have been granted an extension. Yet many of those undocumented migrants gathered in the northern city of Calais say they've experienced food shortages and police brutality, and are so fearful of French authorities that they're attempting to make a dangerous run for the UK instead, the Guardian reports. The lockdown has also put the administrative procedures of asylum on hold, which means many risk sudden expulsion. According to a French immigration lawyer interviewed by the La Croix daily: "Asylum is a fundamental right, and I don't think there's ever been an asylum suspended in such a way since the Geneva Convention."
Italy, the hardest country so far, has been facing tough immigrant questions for the past two decades. This reportage in Internazionale notes that the spring harvest is at risk because 370,000 seasonal workers — mainly from Romania, Bulgaria and Poland – have been blocked from entering the country.
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