Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, concerns around the access to healthcare for all migrants led U.N. experts to call on countries to ensure all migrants, people seeking asylum and trafficking victims can access healthcare irrespective of their immigration status.
Some countries, like Portugal, are already taking action to ensure everyone can access health services during this unsettling time.
People seeking asylum and others awaiting outcomes of residency applications in Portugal will be granted the same legal rights as residents until at least July 1.
But for many others, not being able to seek medical help is leaving them at risk of falling seriously ill.
Activists have raised concerns that victims of modern slavery, who may not have the right to legally remain in a country, won’t access healthcare if they fear detention and deportation.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
“Human rights must be at the centre of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic … no one should be left behind in this global fight,” said Felipe González Morales and Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the top U.N. experts on migrants and trafficking.
“Governments must adopt measures ensuring every individual in the national territory, regardless of their migration status, is included and has access to health services in order to achieve successful containment of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Despite social distancing measures in effect in many countries, migrants and trafficking victims held in cramped conditions in shelters, camps and detention are not given the opportunity to protect themselves.
Workers who are deemed essential in sectors such as farming, some of whom are migrants without the right to work, don’t even have access to protective equipment to keep them safe.
As we see the impact of self-isolation policies implemented around the world, and who doesn’t get to benefit from them, it’s clear that social distancing is a privilege not extended to the most vulnerable.
Now, more than ever, the right to healthcare and the confidence to seek medical help is a crucial necessity for migrants and victims of trafficking.
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