Immediate Action Required to Address Needs, Vulnerabilities of 2.75m Stranded Migrants | International Organization for Migration
Effective international cooperation is urgently needed to address the circumstances of millions of migrants stranded worldwide due to mobility restrictions imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, the International Organization for Migration said today. A three-month-long COVID-19 Impact on Migrants effort by IOM’s Returns Task Force reveals for the first time the scope and complexities of the challenges facing governments and people on the move at a time when at least 2.75 million* migrants are stranded (13 July) worldwide. “The scope and subsequent enforcement of tens of thousands of mobility restrictions including border closures and nation-wide lockdowns related to COVID-19 requires states to reach out to their neighbours and to migrants’ countries of origin to address their needs and vulnerabilities,” said IOM Director General, António Vitorino.
“It should be clear that migrants can be returned home in a safe and dignified manner despite the constraints imposed by COVID-19. Where governments have taken action, tens of thousands of migrants have been able to return home in a manner that takes into consideration the significant health challenges the pandemic poses. Labour corridors have been re-opened, helping to reanimate economies in both source and destination countries and dampen the economic impact of the pandemic. These are all positive steps, but we must move now to replicate these good practices more widely.”
For the purposes of the report, stranded migrants are defined as individuals outside of their country of habitual residence, wishing to return home but who are unable to do so due to mobility restrictions related to COVID-19. This snapshot, based on data collected from 382 locations in more than 101 countries, “is considered a large underestimation of the number of migrants stranded or otherwise impacted by COVID-19” the report states.
IOM has been tracking global mobility restrictions and their impact since early March. The most recent data reveals some 220 countries, territories and areas have imposed over 91,000 restrictions on movement. As a result of these global containment measures, IOM has received hundreds of requests to assist nearly 115,000 stranded migrants to safely and voluntarily return home.
Once stranded, some migrants are at a higher risk of abuse, exploitation and neglect. The loss of livelihoods can increase vulnerabilities and expose them to exploitation by criminal syndicates, human traffickers and others who take advantage of these situations. IOM has repeatedly called for migrants to be included in national COVID-19 response and recovery plans. Too often, however, they are excluded from or, due to their irregular status, unwilling to seek health and other social support services, a situation exacerbated by rising anti-migrant sentiment in some countries. “Migrants often face stigma, discrimination and xenophobic attacks but the extent to which social media in particular has served as an incubator and amplifier of hate speech is a deeply-troubling phenomena,” Director General Vitorino said. “The violence we have seen directed at migrants and other vulnerable people is inexcusable. It is essential to criminalize extreme forms of hate speech, including incitement to discrimination and violence, and to hold the perpetrators accountable.”