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El Observador is a leading Uruguayan daily founded in 1991. Published in Montevideo, its editorial stance is center-right and favors economic and political liberalism.
Migrant workers and their family members walking towards Laxmi nagar train station leaving India's capital for their villages, during the nationwide lock down.

COVID-19: What's Happening To Migrants Around The World

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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Uruguay President vs. Big Tobacco

MONTEVIDEO — While other world leaders used their slot at this week's United Nations General Assembly to argue over Syria or the global economy, Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez had smoke on his mind.

After winning a second non-consecutive term last November, Vázquez launched a full-scale attack on the global tobacco industry, accusing cigarette companies of "killing their own clients."

The left-leaning leader called on world leaders to take action and enact policies directed at reducing cigarette use in their own countries, the Montevideo-based daily El Observador reports.

Vázquez's speech comes as his country is battling a high-profile lawsuit from Philip Morris International (PMI) — the world's largest multinational tobacco company and producer of the Marlboro brand — against Montevideo's stringent anti-smoking laws.

El Observador writes that the laws, adopted during Vázquez's first term (2005-2010), mandate cigarette companies to introduce plain packaging with a health advisory warning covering 80% of each pack.

According to Spanish daily El País, Philip Morris originally sued the Uruguayan government in 2010, claiming that the anti-smoking measures infringed on the company's rights under Uruguay's bilateral investment treaty with Switzerland, which is where the tobacco giant is headquartered. In 2013, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSD) decided to hear the case, which was originally valued at $2 billion but has since been reduced to a possible indemnity of $22 million.

"Health is a human right," President Vázquez said in his remarks at the General Assembly. "It is unethical to prioritize commercial aspects at the expense of a fundamental human right."

The World Health Organization (WHO) has supported Uruguay's anti-tobacco legislation, but the small South American nation still faces a long fight ahead, with a decision not expected for another two years. Regardless of the outcome, the Uruguayan leader insists the laws will stay on the books.