The coronavirus pandemic tearing through society exposes the vulnerability migrants often face. On International Migrants Day on 18 December, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights calls on the EU and its Member States, when addressing the societal impact, to leave no one behind by also supporting migrants.
Estimates say that the number of migrants globally is almost 272 million.
Many work in lower paid jobs, delivering food and parcels as people stay at home. Often they are in sectors at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19, providing care or sanitation. This can leave them more affected by and exposed to the virus.
At the same time, forced displacement continues to rise. At the end of 2018, there were over 70 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, almost 26 million of them refugees.
The pandemic made a difficult situation harder. It is not helped by geopolitical tensions and unease across Europe as most people suffer under the impact of the public health measures.
There is also evidence of higher infection rates among migrants. Overcrowded accommodation with poor hygiene in reception centres, alongside limited access to healthcare, are likely to be contributing factors. It also makes it difficult to follow COVID-19 hygiene and physical distancing measures.
Border restrictions resulted in difficulties to enter the EU. Reports of alleged pushbacks and violence at the borders rose.
The fire in the Moria camp on the island of Lesvos in Greece exposed the difficulties the EU faces in accommodating thousands of asylum seekers and migrants. A new effort with strengthened collaboration between the EU and national authorities is underway to improve living conditions.
Access to distance education for migrant children and employment support for migrant labourers working under unstable employment conditions are additional challenges.
On 23 September, the European Commission published a new Pact on Migration and Asylum.
It sets out a new approach to migration and asylum management in the EU. There is a stronger focus on border procedures, improved cooperation with the countries of origin and transit, migrant integration and return of those with no right to stay.
Some countries also stepped up efforts with practical assistance. They committed to relocate unaccompanied children as thousands continue to live in unsuitable conditions after the Moria fire.
As EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said: “Migration is normal – migration has always been here, migration will always be here.”
By working together, we can manage migration sustainably, responsibly and fairly, offering hope and assistance to those who seek a better life.