How the Republic of Korea Flattened the Curve Without Nationwide Lockdowns or Border Closures: Report
Seoul – With the Republic of Korea (ROK), one of the very few countries flattening the COVID-19 curve without imposing nationwide lockdowns or border closures, IOM ROK and the Migration Research and Training Center (MRTC), have released a timely report highlighting the country’s approach to the pandemic.
The report Mobility Crisis and Response in the Time of COVID-19: The Republic of Korea’s Approach focuses on the country’s immigration and border management (IBM) strategies, which although maintaining an open border policy still successfully helped to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Since the first reported COVID-19 case on 20 January, the country of over 51 million people has 11,050 confirmed cases and 262 deaths as of 17 May.
The report outlines the key elements of the Republic of Korea’s overall response against the spread of the virus which are likely to be of great interest to other countries currently grappling with the novel coronavirus and contemplating effective mobility management during the pandemic.
The Government of ROK has focused on using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for early widespread testing, contact tracing and spreading essential emergency information while simultaneously strengthening border controls and implementing strict quarantine measures in the country.
In particular, the report highlights the Special Immigration Procedure (SIP) which has been flexibly applied to the evolution of coronavirus as more passengers come from affected areas. To prevent the outflow of infected travelers to overseas countries, the country has also reinforced its screening process at points of entry.
Leveraging the 3Ts – widespread tests, rigorous tracing, and free treatment – has allowed the country to manage both inflow and outflow passengers in an open and responsible manner. The report also highlights underlying factors including leadership, whole-of-government approach, legal and administrative systematical backup, policy flexibility, and public trust built on transparency as major attributes for the country’s remarkable turnaround in talking COVID-19.
“The contagious nature of infectious diseases and the interconnectedness of the modern world has made many countries use mobility restrictions as a primary tool for containment,” said IOM Republic of Korea Head of Office Miah Park. According to IOM, a total of 215 countries, territories, and areas had implemented a total of 52,262 restrictive measures as of 23 April.
Park added, “As we question the sustainability of such measures, Republic of Korea’s open border policy is especially worth paying attention to. From the onset of COIVD-19 response, the country has followed three fundamental principles.” These have been:
- Openness: By minimizing restrictions on the movement of people and goods while maximizing the effectiveness of public health measures, the Republic of Korea has controlled the influx of infections from overseas and protected those entering the country.
- Transparency: By promptly and transparently sharing all information related to COVID-19 measures with Korean citizens and residents and the international community, the Government of Korea has sought to ease public anxiety and earn trust.
- Inclusiveness: By encouraging voluntary participation in response efforts to COVID 19, the Government of Korea has provided an opportunity for the people to play an active role in curbing the spread of the virus.
For its part, IOM ROK closely monitors country’s COVID-19 response to ensure that vulnerable groups including migrants are not being disproportionately exposed to discrimination, stigmatization or xenophobia in tackling the novel coronavirus. It also continues to stress national, regional, and international solidarity and cooperation.
Access the full report here.
For more information please contact Nari Shim at IOM Republic of Korea. Tel: +82-70-4820-2648, Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgLanguage English Posted: Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - 13:00Image: Region-Country: Republic of KoreaThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia:
Incheon International Airport Corp. CEO Koo Bon-hwan (center left) gives out wet wipes with pamphlets on how to prevent coronavirus during the campaign to promote its stronger disinfection plans. Photo: Incheon International Airport CorpPress Release Type: Global
Geneva – Highlighting the deep impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the mental health of people worldwide, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) calls for pro-active measures to be taken by governments worldwide to ensure that the mental health and psychosocial needs of migrants and displaced persons are taken into consideration in governments’ responses.
The call is in line with the launch yesterday by the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, of a policy brief titled COVID-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health, which highlights the mental health consequences of the pandemic and urges governments, civil society, health authorities and others to invest in and prioritize mental health during the COVID-19 response and beyond.
Next week, the World Health Organization (WHO) will be holding its 73rd World Health Assembly, in which Member States and other stakeholders are due to discuss the impacts of COVID-19, IOM reiterates the importance of taking into consideration the mental health dimensions of the crisis, in particular the effects it has on migrants, displaced persons and other vulnerable groups.
“Everyone is affected by this pandemic,” said António Vitorino, IOM Director-General.
“The stresses of confinement, job loss, stigma and xenophobia certainly have an impact on mental health. Those most vulnerable including migrants, mobile populations, and seasonal workers, face a unique set of challenges. We must ensure everyone is included in our mental health response, especially during COVID-19.”
In the current global environment, migrants face specific stressors and, too often, many continue to have unequal access to health – let alone mental health – care. The most vulnerable, for example those who find themselves in irregular situations, might be forced to contend with poor housing or overcrowded conditions, as well as precarious, informal, or dangerous working situations. While some are working on the frontlines of the crisis, others may have lost their source of income, or found themselves quarantined in squalid situations. Lacking safety nets or support systems, sometimes far away from their families, many may have difficulties accessing reliable information, in a language that they can understand, on the disease and related services available. Those who do have information may be afraid to seek help for their symptoms due to fear of arrest or deportation.
Given all these realities that can lead to migrants being more vulnerable to mental and psychosocial issues, IOM advocates for government efforts to be migrant-inclusive, regardless of legal statuses, in order to ensure an equitable mental health response to COVID-19 and leave no one behind.
IOM supports the UN Secretary-General’s call for mental health actions to be considered essential components of national responses to COVID-19, including: reducing pandemic-related adversities known to harm mental health, developing psychosocially-aware communication strategies, offering mental health and psychosocial support in emergency situations, investing in remote mental health interventions, ensuring the continuation of in-person care for those with severe mental health conditions, and promoting participatory approaches.
In 72 countries, IOM is providing mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) to vulnerable migrants and displaced persons across its programmes, including through community-based approaches and capacity-building. In the COVID-19 context, IOM has adapted its MHPSS activities for example by offering e-counselling, providing remote support, promoting community cohesion, or extending its MHPSS services to quarantine or isolation facilities.
For more information please contact Yasmina Guerda, IOM Public Health Communications Officer at HQ, Tel: +41 79 363 17 99, Email: email@example.comLanguage English Posted: Friday, May 15, 2020 - 16:15Image: Region-Country: SwitzerlandThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia:
People living in difficult conditions such as crowded camps are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Photo: IOM/ Muse MohammedPress Release Type: Global
Washington, DC – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have signed a memorandum of understanding to maximize cooperation and jointly promote orderly, regular, and safe migration as an enabler of sustainable development and inclusive growth in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).
The IDB and IOM play key complementary roles on addressing and promoting migration management and development issues. Countries in LAC have experienced unprecedented migration flows in the past several years, often creating pressure on countries’ services and capacities.
More than 4.3 million of the approximately 5.1 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela are in LAC, according to data from national immigration authorities and other sources. This makes the current exodus the largest movement of people within the region in recent years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further strained resources and amplified the need for effective assistance and coordination between both institutions to better serve migrants and host communities.
Migrants are especially vulnerable in the current public health context. Social distancing, one of the most effective measures to “flatten the curve”, is difficult to practice within a population that tends to be highly mobile and often occupies overcrowded spaces. Limited access to potable water, basic sanitation, and health services exacerbates this vulnerability.
“With the economic slowdown and loss of livelihoods, migrants are already among the most affected groups,” said Luca Dall’Oglio, IOM Chief of Mission in Washington DC. “Enhanced coordination between relevant humanitarian and development actors will ensure a more coherent response to mitigate the impact beyond the immediate crisis.”
Under the new agreement, the IDB and IOM will promote evidence-based migration policies and programmes at the regional, country and local levels, while protecting migrants’ human and labour rights and developing institutional capacity.
Additionally, the partners will provide technical assistance to local organizations pursuing initiatives on migration management, in areas including financial inclusion, job skills and labour-market integration, health, social protection, and social inclusion and cohesion. The organizations will also develop knowledge products, including online trainings, on topics of mutual interest.
“The links between migration and development are pivotal for the socioeconomic development of the region,” said Antoni Estevadeordal, Migration Special Advisor of the IDB. “The partnership between IOM and IDB will be an important tool to address human mobility issues and transform migration challenges into development opportunities.”
For more information, please contact Liz Lizama at IOM Washington, Tel: +1 202 716 8820, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and Isabel Alvarez at Inter-American Development Bank, Tel: +1 202 623-1060, Email: email@example.com.Language English Posted: Friday, May 15, 2020 - 13:45Image: Region-Country: United States of AmericaThemes: IOMDefault: Multimedia:
The Inter-American Development Bank and the International Organization for Migration have partnered to jointly promote evidence-based migration policies, programmes and technical assistance in areas such as financial inclusion, job skills and labour-market integration, health and social cohesion. (Photo: IOM/Paula Vásquez)Press Release Type: Global
Moscow/Nur Sultan – The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on Central Asia and the Russian Federation, where migration influences every aspect of daily life.
Thousands of migrants are stranded due to travel restrictions. Remittance flows – the lifeblood of several regional economies – has slowed to a trickle.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs also have been lost abroad and millions of families are in danger of extreme poverty. Those migrants who do make it home are returning to joblessness, stigma and, potentially, social unrest.
The social and economic face of one-sixth of the world’s surface has dramatically changed, and recovery will take years.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) yesterday (14/05) launched an urgent appeal for USD 7 million to ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on migrant communities in six countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) until the end of 2020.
Over 100 people took part in the virtual launch, representing donors, embassies, migration experts and governments, together with senior IOM staff in Vienna, Moscow, Nur Sultan, and the other regional capitals.
Globally, IOM has launched a USD 499 million Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan to respond to the largest mobility crisis of our times.
Meanwhile, the fight against the spread of the pandemic goes on. Huge resources are needed simply to provide health care for the sick and ensure measures are taken to flatten the curve. In one of the world’s most mobile regions – where millions migrate for work between Central Asia and the Russian Federation – over 80 per cent of migrants surveyed by IOM and its partners report loss of or reduction in their incomes.
Their vulnerability has sharply increased. “We know from previous crises that migrants are ruthlessly exploited, by having their wages cut, or being threatened with being reported to the authorities,” said Dyane Epstein, IOM’s Regional Director for South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “Some will be forced into the shadow economy, where they are further exploited, compromising their physical and mental health.”
IOM plans to provide support to governments and communities dealing with the impact of disruption to labour markets and severely reduced remittance flows. “Our initial research shows that over 90 per cent of labour migrants will be unable to send remittances home,” warned IOM’s Sub-Regional Coordinator for Central Asia, Zeynal Hajiyev. “They have no savings and the industries they depend on are mothballed.”
“This is a clear and present crisis,” stressed IOM’s Chief Mission for the Russian Federation, Abdusattor Esoev. “Sixty per cent of migrants have told us they can’t pay their rent, while more than 40 per cent can’t afford food. Millions of people are teetering on the brink. We can provide a safety net but the time to act is right now.”
Highlights of IOM’s appeal for Central Asia and the Russian Federation:
- Provide migrants in vulnerable situations, especially women and children, stranded in the main destination and transit countries (Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Turkey) with safe and appropriate living conditions, information on COVID-19 and preventive measures, protective masks and sanitizers, access to health screening, advice and services, and access to online education for migrant children.
- Research and understand the vulnerability of migrants that are being stranded to ensure appropriate assistance.
- Support Central Asian migrants to return safely to their homelands.
- Support economic and social reintegration in their home communities.
- Mitigate the socio-economic impact of the crisis on migrants and their families.
- Support migrants in difficult situations with counselling and referral to the state health-care system.
- Assist migrants to seek alternative employment across the region by serving as link between employers and migrants.
The appeal can be downloaded here.
Watch video message from IOM’s Chief Mission for the Russian Federation, Abdusattor Esoev.
For more information please contact Joe Lowry, IOM Vienna, Tel: +436603776505, Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgLanguage English Posted: Friday, May 15, 2020 - 14:00Image: Region-Country: Russian FederationThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia:
Thousands of Central Asian labour migrants have been delayed or stranded at airports in the Russian Federation. Many more are unable to raise the money for transport home or waiting it out in Russia and other countries. Photo: State Migration Services of Kyrgyzstan
Thousands of Central Asian labour migrants have been delayed or stranded at airports in the Russian Federation. Many more are unable to raise the money for transport home or waiting it out in Russia and other countries. Photo: State Migration Services of Kyrgyzstan
Thousands of Central Asian labour migrants have been delayed or stranded at airports in the Russian Federation. Many more are unable to raise the money for transport home or waiting it out in Russia and other countries. Photo: State Migration Services of Kyrgyzstan
Screenshot of Dyane Epstein, IOM Regional Director for South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia and colleagues during the appeal’s virtual launch on 15 May 2020.Press Release Type: Global
Responding to the Pandemic Amid Multi-layered Crises in the Sahel: “Stop the Virus, Not the People.”
Dakar – Mobility across the arid African Sahel region is a long-standing tradition and is considered a critical livelihood and adaptation strategy for millions in one of the world’s harshest environments.
Now, as governments are mandating significant restrictions of movement to contain the propagation of the coronavirus (COVID-19) – notably by putting a halt on border trade and “non-essential” activities – heavy socio-economic impacts for households have begun to unveil.
“I’m stranded here for weeks, and I can’t send money to my parents and my wife because I have to use the money for food and accommodation,” explained Malick, a Senegalese trader once accustomed to travelling to Mauritania weekly for commerce.
Stranded since March at the Sélibabi, Mauritania, border station, he added, “Now, I can no longer support my family in Senegal, as I am jobless.”
For this man, and thousands of others, this week (14 May), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) joined several UN agencies and NGOs in West and Central Africa to sound the alarm about the rapidly deteriorating crisis in the Sahel amid the COVID-19 crisis, a condition now headed to unprecedented levels of humanitarian need across the region.
UNDESA estimates there are 9.5 million West and Central African migrants currently in the region, more than 100,000 of whom are considered returning migrants. The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development calculates cross-border trade across the Sahel today represents almost 12 per cent of the region's overall trade volume.
Therefore, mobility in the region is crucial to livelihoods in several nations, upon which the pandemic already is having a devastating impact.
“Many cross-border traders call to ask when the border will reopen. We try to explain why the border must remain closed for now to curb COVID-19, but we know it is difficult for them,” said Malick Singhateh, Public Health Officer at the Sabi border post, in The Gambia.
The shutdown has also led to dramatic increases in prices of goods and food for millions of households. Herders and their families – who demographers estimate account for an estimated 20 per cent of the region’s population – also have been forced to end their seasonal migration due to border closures.
Preventive measures impeding transit of both people and goods have left over 20,000 migrants stranded at borders, and close to another 2,000 waiting in transit centres
These latest disruptions come on top of some 5.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), forced to move either due to conflict or natural disasters (see chart below). Those IDPs are likely to be living in congested conditions and face significant risks and vulnerabilities as they struggle to meet basic needs.
As an aggravating factor, migrants and displaced persons have generally limited access to public health care systems and may not be tested or treated for COVID-19 which can lead to worse outcomes for host populations.
“Failing to include migrants and displaced populations in the COVID-19 response means failing to respond to the crisis,” explained Sophie Nonnenmacher, acting IOM Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “No one will be safe until everyone is safe.”
“Migrants and displaced communities must be seen as an integral part of any effective public health response,” said Nonnenmacher, who added: “Border closures are not sustainable in the medium and long run. IOM stands ready to support countries in reopening border posts in a safe and timely manner.”
IOM is working with governments in the region to provide for water and sanitation, and safe isolation needs in camps, and to strengthen measures at points of entry to ensure their safe reopening. IOM is also working with governments to begin voluntary humanitarian return programmes for vulnerable migrants, now the sole legal option for going home.
For more information, please contact Florence Kim at the IOM Regional Office for West and Central Africa, Tel: +221 78620 6213, Email: email@example.com.Language English Posted: Friday, May 15, 2020 - 14:10Image: Region-Country: SenegalThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia:
Transhumant herder and families accounts for an estimated 20 per cent of the total population in West and Central Africa, are forced to stop their seasonal migration as a result of border closures. Photo: IOM/Geoffrey ReynardPress Release Type: Global
OCHA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNFPA, WFP, WHO, IOM
Geneva- Conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic present a significant threat to life in Libya. The health and safety of the country’s entire population are at risk.
Close to 400,000 Libyans have been displaced since the start of the conflict nine years ago – around half of them within the past year, since the attack on the capital, Tripoli, started.
Despite repeated calls for a humanitarian ceasefire, including by the United Nations Secretary-General, hostilities continue unabated, hindering access and the delivery of critical humanitarian supplies. Humanitarian workers face significant challenges every day to carry on with their mission. In March 2020, humanitarian partners reported a total of 851 access constraints on movement of humanitarian personnel and humanitarian items within and into Libya.
The situation for many migrants and refugees is especially alarming. Since the start of this year, more than 3,200 people have been intercepted at sea and returned to Libya. Many end up in one of the eleven official detention centers. Others are taken to facilities or unofficial detention centers to which the humanitarian community does not have access. The United Nations has repeatedly reiterated that Libya is not a safe port and that persons rescued at sea should not be returned to arbitrary detention.
Women and children continue to bear the brunt of the ongoing armed conflict in Libya: over the past year, the United Nations verified 113 cases of grave violations, including killing and maiming of children, attacks on schools, and health facilities. Hospitals and health facilities have been targeted by shelling, further disrupting Libya’s fragile health system. Since the beginning of the year, at least 15 attacks have damaged health facilities and ambulances and injured health care workers. These attacks are a blatant violation of international humanitarian law and even more egregious during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The onset of the coronavirus in Libya poses yet another strain on the already overstretched health system, and further threatens the most vulnerable people in the country. As of May 13, there were 64 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including three deaths, in different parts of the country. This shows that local/community transmission is taking place. The risk of further escalation of the outbreak is very high.
Food security, already a challenge, is being compromised by the spread of COVID-19 and its socioeconomic impact on Libyan families. Latest market assessments show that most cities are facing shortages of basic food items coupled with an increase in prices. Limited market availability of goods and higher prices are impacting plans, as are supply chain disruptions. Continued support to food security inside the country is essential so that this health crisis does not worsen by becoming a food crisis.
We urge all parties to the conflict to protect vital water supply facilities. We are acutely alarmed that water facilities have been deliberately targeted or indiscriminately attacked. This affects thousands of women and children and impedes efforts to implement basic virus prevention measures, such as hand-washing.
We support the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire and a humanitarian pause to save lives and enable the Libyan authorities and their partners to devote their energies to stopping the spread of COVID-19. The international community must not turn a blind eye to the conflict in Libya and its catastrophic effect on civilians, including migrants and refugees, across the country.
Despite enormous challenges, the UN and our humanitarian partners have continued to reach the most vulnerable people in Libya. Funds are urgently required, including for vital enabling services such as the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service, if we are to continue meeting emergency needs. We look forward with anticipation to the pledged financial support to the Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya, as announced by the Government of National Accord. Donors have been supportive. We ask that they continue to show their generosity and stand by the people of Libya in their quest for peace and in this moment of great need.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi
Executive Director of UNICEF Henrietta Fore
Executive Director of UN Population Fund Dr. Natalia Kanem
Executive Director of the World Food Programme David Beasley
Director-General of World Health Organization Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Director General of International Organization for Migration António VitorinoLanguage English Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2020 - 18:56Image: Region-Country: LibyaThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia:
Photo: IOM/2018Press Release Type: Global
Statement by the United Nations Network on Migration
Geneva, 14 May 2020 - The United Nations Network on Migration is concerned by reports of States in many regions using forced return of migrants as a measure in response to COVID-19. The Network calls on States to suspend forced returns during the pandemic, in order to protect the health of migrants and communities, and uphold the human rights of all migrants, regardless of status. Successfully tackling the pandemic cannot be achieved without upholding human rights.
When temporary border closures and movement restrictions are deemed necessary to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, they must be implemented in a way that is non-discriminatory and proportionate to achieving the public health aim pursued. Such closures should incorporate health protocols and processes to guarantee fundamental rights at all times.
Keeping everyone safe means ensuring that no-one faces the risk of refoulement by being returned to places where their life, safety or human rights are threatened. It means that collective expulsions, such as arbitrary pushbacks of migrants and asylum-seekers at borders, must be halted; that protection needs must be individually assessed; and that the rule of law and due process must be observed. It also means prioritizing protection, including every child’s best interests. These are obligations in international law that can never be put on hold and are vital to any successful approach to combatting COVID-19 for the benefit of all.
Forced returns can intensify serious public health risks for everyone – migrants, public officials, health workers, social workers and both host and origin communities. Forced returns place additional strain on countries of return. Many health systems are already stretched and lack capacity to protect returnees and their communities, including through testing upon arrival and quarantine and self-isolation measures that preserve family unity and ensure the best interests of children. Returnees may face additional risks during transfer and upon return, such as lack of access to adequate health care, poor water and sanitation systems, halted ground transportation, additional restrictions on movement and violent discrimination and stigma in communities of return. In some contexts, returned migrants and asylum-seekers may also be at risk of experiencing protracted displacement, trafficking in persons, and extreme financial hardship with increases to already high levels of unemployment due to COVID-19.
The United Nations Network on Migration recalls the commitments made by States in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration to uphold the human rights of all migrants, regardless of migratory status, and to improve migration governance, including by cooperating to save lives and to keep migrants out of harm’s way. Using this framework for collective action to guide immigration practices during the pandemic, the Network urges States to advance Objective 21 of the Global Compact for Migration by guaranteeing due process and upholding the prohibition of collective expulsion and of returning migrants when there are foreseeable risks to their human rights.
The Network reiterates the Secretary-General’s recent call to alleviate situations of vulnerability for individuals living outside their country of origin in the context of COVID-19, including by granting temporary residence to migrants and imposing a moratorium on deportations and other forced returns.
Many governments have set positive examples to ensure that migrants are included as part of their comprehensive response to COVID-19. These include temporarily suspending forced returns and providing visa and work permit extensions, temporary residence or other forms of regular status; as well as releasing people from immigration detention and finding safe, non-custodial alternative accommodations for them in the community rather than seeking their deportation.
The United Nations Network on Migration stands ready to support States in replicating, adapting and expanding these good practices – in line with the commitments set out in the Global Compact for Migration – that will contribute toward the realization of the rights of all migrants, regardless of status, while protecting everyone’s health.
The United Nations Network on Migration was established to ensure effective, timely and coordinated system-wide support to Member States in their implementation, follow up and review of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. While the Network’s mandate is focused on migration and provides the context in which this statement has been written, the Network calls on States to also implement these recommendations where they apply to refugees and asylum-seekers and to protect the human rights and health of everyone equally, regardless of migration status.
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Language English Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2020 - 15:11Image: Region-Country: GlobalThemes: COVID-19UNDefault: Multimedia: Press Release Type: Global
Joint IOM/UNHCR Press Release
Geneva – With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening the safety and future of millions of refugees and migrants from Venezuela and their host communities, more than 150 organizations working across 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are appealing to the international community for an urgent increase in support.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Venezuelan refugees and migrants are now faced with a myriad of challenges, including the loss of livelihoods, evictions as well as increasing stigmatization. Many are often unable to access basic health and hygiene facilities and to comply with physical distancing measures. Those living in an irregular situation and without documentation also risk being left out of national health and social welfare programmes.
“Coronavirus is pressuring our societies in ways we could have never imagined. For Venezuelan refugees and migrants, the pandemic exposes them to even greater hardship as many are now struggling to survive, away from home,” said Eduardo Stein, Joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for refugees and migrants from Venezuela.
“Venezuelans across the region are now faced with hunger, a lack of access to medical care, the prospects of homelessness and xenophobia.”
Increasingly vulnerable, many are also at risk of exposure to gender-based violence, stigmatization, exploitation and abuse.
In response, humanitarian organizations revised the Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP), launched in November 2019. This USD 1.35 billion regional plan prioritized activities to address the most pressing protection, lifesaving and integration needs of refugees and migrants from Venezuela. The updated requirements of the RMRP now amount to USD 1.41 billion, around one-third of which are for COVID-19-specific activities.
The main increases will support refugees and migrants in extremely precarious situations, especially those in urgent need of food, shelter and health services. It will also cover the provision of personal protective equipment and activities aimed at providing vital information on the pandemic and available services.
The RMRP complements the tremendous efforts governments in the region have put in place to alleviate the needs of host communities. The inclusion of refugees and migrants in national responses and programmes – ranging from the delivery of basic goods and food packages, social welfare efforts, and the efforts aimed at halting evictions – has been and continues to be vital.
Given the quarantine measures in place across the region, the delivery of many activities in the response plan have been adjusted to provide assistance through remote modalities, including through enhanced cash-based assistance.
Other prioritized activities include the establishment of mobile health facilities for the testing and referral of COVID-19 cases and the upgrading of shelters with adequate physical spacing and improved sanitary conditions.
This is in addition to the provision of technical support to national authorities to complement their efforts in the COVID-19 response and the establishment of early warning systems and rapid response mechanisms to contain the spread of the pandemic among refugees and migrants. Crucially, refugees and migrants, irrespective of their status, need to be included in national health responses.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic has yet to reach its peak in Latin America, overstretched public health services will continue to be challenged over the coming months. We urge the international community to generously provide support through this revised response plan,” Stein said.
The regional response plan for Venezuelans remains dangerously underfunded. To date, only four per cent of the required funds have been met. To support the largely underfunded work of the 151 organizations who are part of the Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform (R4V) response, a virtual Pledging Conference will be convened towards the end of the month.
The coordination of the humanitarian, protection and integration response for refugees and migrants from Venezuela is conducted through the R4V. Within this framework and in a coordinated effort, the RMRP forms part of the updated COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan, issued by the UN Secretary-General earlier this month.
More information on the revised response plan is available here
The RMRP, including its COVID-19-related revision is available on the website of the Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform: R4V.info
For more information, please contact:
Daniela Rovina, IOM (firstname.lastname@example.org) +507 6312-8294
Olga Sarrado, UNHCR (email@example.com) +507 6640 0185
Angela Wells, IOM (firstname.lastname@example.org) +41 79 403 5365
Shabia Mantoo, UNHCR (email@example.com) +41 79 337 7650Language English Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 15:09Image: Region-Country: Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)Themes: COVID-19Venezuela CrisisDefault: Multimedia:
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, refugees and migrants from Venezuela are now faced with a myriad of challenges, including the loss of livelihoods, evictions as well as increasing stigmatization. Photo: IOM Brazil/ Bruno Mancinelle
The regional response plan for Venezuelans supports refugees and migrants in extremely precarious situations, especially those in urgent need of food, shelter, and health services, among others. Photo: IOM Brazil/ Bruno MancinellePress Release Type: Global
Since the arrival of COVID-19, MiTA — IOM’s new Migration Translation App—has been given a rapid upgrade to take account of the added challenges facing migrants in the Western Balkans.
A new section is designed to help border management officials identify persons at risk and refer them for medical screening. It includes questions related to basic symptoms, recent travel history, and travel companions.
“Migrants face more than physical barriers on their journeys”, explained Donatella Bradic, programme manager with IOM in Serbia. “Effective communication in a language that both migrants and border officials understand is crucial in identifying the immediate needs of the migrant and ensuring an appropriate and protection-sensitive response. That’s why we designed this App, and it’s already proving a boon in a time of COVID-19”
IOM has been working closely with border management authorities in the Western Balkans to develop a bespoke solution since 2018, with EU funding.
“We had a number of key requirements,” added IOM’s Bradic. “Any system would have to be available at all times, be simple and reliable, operationally and financially sustainable and respect the rights and privacy of both migrants and border officials.”
Earlier this year, the Organization began trial on the MiTA, a mobile application, which facilitates basic communication between migration management officials and migrants during border procedures and situations of first contact.
MiTA is a free, custom-built offline application which contains 70 simple questions relating to the identity, mode of travel, health and immediate protection needs of the migrants. The questions and answer options are translated into 12 languages (English, Macedonian, Albanian, Bosnian/Montenegrin/Serbian, French, Turkish, Arabic, Pashto, Urdu, Kurdish, Somali and Farsi), and can be “read aloud” as sound recordings.
The languages included in MiTA are those spoken most frequently by migrants that encounter border officials in the Western Balkans. MiTA can also display a world map so that the migrants can easily communicate their travel routes and destination, as well as a calendar in two different formats (Gregorian and Hijri).
MiTA does not store any personal information about migrants or users, but it does allow users to export the answers provided by the migrant as an email message or to download them in a PDF format on the mobile device.
For more information, please contact:
Donatella Bradic at IOM Serbia, Tel: +381 11 3 28 20 75, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ivan Kochovski at IOM North Macedonia, Tel: +389 78 22 14 77, Email: email@example.comLanguage English Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 12:20Image: Region-Country: North MacedoniaSerbiaThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia:
A video still from the MiTA Migration Translation App
MiTA, IOM’s brand new Migration Translation App, has been given a rapid upgrade to take account of the added challenges facing migrants in the Western Balkans since the arrival of COVID-19.Press Release Type: Global
Yerevan – A major new social media campaign has been launched in Armenia to raise awareness of health-related issues among migrants and the population at large.
The campaign is called “Sincere Talk”, using a phrase Armenians use in daily speech when they want to stress, they are being open and honest.
Originally designed as an intervention for behaviour change aimed at dispelling HIV-related stigma, “Sincere Talk” has quickly been adapted to take account of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
In phase one COVID 19 related posts have been developed to address ways of preventing transmission, to give reliable sources for up to date information, to identify signs and symptoms, and inform where to get tested.
“Our innovative campaign attempts to engage target audiences to support eventual self-awareness as an at-risk population and go beyond being a passive information delivery system”, says programme manager Nune Asatryan. “The messaging and approach of ‘Sincere Talk’ are designed to create a supportive virtual environment where all demographics can disclose concerns and risks and seek information”.
Metrics will monitor the engagement that social media participants have with their own risk-taking behaviours, starting documenting posts indicating awareness of HIV risk.
The overall goal of the campaign is to improve HIV/AIDS awareness among urban labour migrants in Armenia. Communicating complicated information in a user-friendly way is hard and "Sincere talk" aims to accomplish that via storytelling.
The illustrated characters Anush and Garnik (common Armenian names) tell a family story and convey the campaign key messages. Even the visual identity and logo are part of the storytelling and represent the safety and protection of home.
“Sincere Talk” is being implemented on Facebook, Instagram, and Odnoklassniki.
For more information please contact Nune Asatryan, IOM Armenia, Tel.: +374585692, ext. 107 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.Language English Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 12:40Image: Region-Country: ArmeniaThemes: IOMDefault: Multimedia:
Anush and Garnik, the main protagonists on Sincere Talk, a new social media campaign to fight migration-related stigma in Armenia.Press Release Type: Global
Buenos Aires – Through Sunday, 10 May, Argentina has reported 6,034 COVID-19 cases and just over 300 deaths. A social, preventative and mandatory lockdown was decreed by the national Government on 20 March and most commercial and industrial activities are suspended, as are in-person classes at all education levels. Migrants here face special obstacles.
Argentina is the main reception country of migrants in South America. According to the United Nations Department of Social and Economic Affairs (UNDESA), in 2019 migrants represented a 5.1 per cent of the total population, a presence that, as a proportion of all residents, is among the highest in Latin America. It’s even higher in Buenos Aires, the country’s capital and largest city, where over 13 per cent are migrants born outside Argentina.
Among these migrants, the rates of informal work and self-employment are high. Furthermore, those who do not have two years of legal residence cannot access Argentina’s Emergency Family Income, a measure adopted by the Government for informal workers and single taxpayers at the lowest income levels.
It is against this backdrop that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is working closely with the national Government and civil society organizations to provide sanitary and food support to extremely vulnerable migrants.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that solidarity, dialogue, coordination and complementarity among government agencies, humanitarian partners and the private sector are the best strategies to leave no one behind,” said Gabriela Fernández, IOM Argentina’s Head of Office. “This is the spirit we have to keep up in our work.”
In metro Buenos Aires, IOM’s Country Office in Argentina has delivered 1,500 food, hygiene and cleaning kits prepared jointly with the Argentine Red Cross, with a second round of delivery under preparation for 1,500 more.
IOM also has prepared information on COVID-19 in several languages, including English for the many migrants here from Jamaica, and French for migrants from Senegal and Haiti. “Those are the migrants who are among the most vulnerable,” said Juliana Quintero, an IOM regional spokesperson. Languages, she added “is one of the main boundaries to access to information on the pandemic.”
Moreover, IOM is strengthening the response capacities of the Argentine state. Infrared thermometers and face masks were provided to the National Directorate of Migration (DNM, by its Spanish acronym). These supplies allow health checks to be carried out at the authorized border crossings and to safeguard migration agents while performing their duties.
“IOM, with which we share a wide agenda of activities, has been a key partner at this particular time, contributing material and human resources to take care of every Argentine national,” said Florencia Carignano, DNM Director.
These activities were implemented thanks to funding by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) from the United States Department of State.
For more information please contact Juan Pablo Schneider at IOM Argentina, Tel: +54 11 22842210, Email: email@example.comLanguage English Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 12:45Image: Region-Country: ArgentinaThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia:
IOM Argentina is delivering food, hygiene and information on COVID-19 to vulnerable migrants. Credit: IOM Argentina
IOM Argentina is delivering food, hygiene and information on COVID-19 to vulnerable migrants. Credit: IOM ArgentinaPress Release Type: Global
Migrants Continue Central Mediterranean Crossings Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Even as Rescue ‘Gap’ Makes Passage More Perilous
Berlin – The COVID-19 pandemic and the response measures implemented by governments – including mobility restrictions, border closure and tightened immigration control – have not eliminated the peril of an irregular migrant journeys across the Mediterranean.
Moreover. a lack of active humanitarian search and rescue operations and the closing of ports are making an already dangerous journey even deadlier, creating a concerning rescue “gap” which has migrants’ lives at risk.
That’s the conclusion of the International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s Global Migration and Data Analysis Centre, known as GMDAC, which has monitored migration flows, arrival and fatalities statistics on this busy migration corridor since 2014.
Leveraging public health concerns to tighten control at their borders, the Maltese and Italian governments introduced further restrictions on disembarkation in their ports. Nonetheless, migrants continued to leave Libyan shores, driven by the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in the country.
In April 2020, 1,132 people attempted the crossing from North Africa to Italy and Malta, based on IOM records, which amounts to over a doubling of the 498 people making that journey during the same period in 2019 (see chart below).
During the COVID-19 response, the number of fatalities recorded on the Central Mediterranean route has decreased in 2020 – to 18 and 13 deaths, respectively, recorded in March and April 2020, down from 56 and 52 recorded during those months last year.
Situations of non-assistance at sea have resulted in the death and disappearance of people travelling on this route. Many of those who departed from Libya have been stranded at sea on flimsy, unseaworthy boats for days without being rescued. At least 12 people lost their lives during the Easter weekend, after drifting for days in a rubber boat somewhere between Libya and Malta.
Meanwhile, public health measures adopted in response to the pandemic have forced many search and rescue NGOs to curtail their activities. Only two NGO rescue vessels have been patrolling the Central Mediterranean during these recent months: the Aita Mari and the Aylan Kurdi. Both are being held in the Port of Palermo for administrative reasons.
“The absence of dedicated state and NGO-led search and rescue operations makes it difficult to know all that is happening at sea,” said Frank Laczko, head of IOM’s GMDAC unit. “In this context, risks that invisible shipwrecks are occurring far from the view of the international community have grown.”
Migration along two other Mediterranean routes has been differently affected by the COVID-19 restrictions. In the Eastern Mediterranean, the number of people attempting the crossing – including those who arrived in Greece and those intercepted at sea and returned to Turkey – dropped to 292 in April 2020.
This represents a sharp decrease relative to March, when 4,905 people attempted passage. It is likely that the containment measures implemented by Turkey – including mandatory quarantine, travel bans and movement restrictions – coupled with increased patrolling by Greek authorities have cut into mobility across the Aegean.
Overall arrivals to Spain since the onset of the pandemic also have dropped. Some 1,098 people were recorded arriving via land and sea routes during the six weeks between Spain’s lockdown, and the end of April 2020. That’s down 45 per cent from the same period last year, when 1,998 people were recorded.
Land border closures and strict confinement policies may have contributed to the decrease in the number of people attempting the journey. However, while arrivals to mainland Spain, Ceuta and Melilla via the Western Mediterranean route have dropped, the upward trend of arrivals to the Canary Islands continues.
Spain’s Ministry of the Interior reported that 706 migrants were rescued off the coast of the Canary Islands between 15 March and 30 April 2020. Only 135 people were recorded arriving via this route during the same period in 2019.
Tragically, not all boats that set out for the Canary Islands arrive. IOM’s Missing Migrants Project recorded the deaths of 63 people in two shipwrecks on this route during March and April 2020.
Missing Migrants Project data are compiled by IOM staff based at its Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC). For latest arrivals and fatalities in the Mediterranean, click here. Learn more about the Missing Migrants Project.
For more information please contact Safa Msehli, IOM Geneva, Tel: +41 79 403 5526, Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgLanguage English Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 12:50Image: Region-Country: SwitzerlandThemes: COVID-19Default: Press Release Type: Global
IOM Supports Migrants Stranded on Cote d’Ivoire – Ghana Border; Border Officials Trained and Equipped Amid COVID-19 Crisis
Abidjan – Travel hassles basically come with the territory for sojourners across West Africa. But what 13 men and women experienced these recent weeks may set a new standard for delay.
Because of the COVID-19 lockdown, the plight of these travelers became a concern for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) which has assisted thousands of migrants stranded in Africa since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their story starts in the streets of Noé, a small town located in Côte d’Ivoire near that country’s border with Ghana. There, 13 vulnerable migrants originating from Liberia, Ghana and Sierra Leone were forced to spend more than a month seeking makeshift shelter, as well as food and medical attention after authorities in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire closed their respective borders to travellers.
The migrants, including four women and nine men, had been stranded in Côte d’Ivoire since 22 March. Among the stranded migrants were bus drivers who work shuttling passengers between Liberia and Ghana, who now found themselves unable to move. Others among the stranded were traders seeking to enter Côte d’Ivoire for commerce.
At first, the stranded migrants slept at the border station, although a few found temporary lodging at a small hotel. IOM became aware of their plight on 15 April, nearly four weeks after the border closure, and persuaded authorities in Noé to repurpose two schoolrooms—also shuttered in response to the pandemic—to safely house the men and women.
On Saturday, 9 May, IOM provided food, hygiene products and other essential items to the stranded travellers. IOM also began registering those willing to return to their country of origin. Unfortunately, later that same day, one man who was already ill---but not with the coronavirus-- died in the classroom in Noé.
IOM relied for this aid on the support of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, in collaboration with regional authorities and social services agencies. To support the Ivoirian government’s COVID-19 response, IOM donated on Monday (11/05) health equipment, including thermometers, masks and hydroalcoholic solution, to improve the working conditions of frontline workers at ten land points of entry (POEs).
“Côte d’Ivoire has kept its borders open to ensure transportation of goods, which is vital to the country and region’s economy, but like in many other countries, borders are closed to travelers,” explained Marina Schramm, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Côte d’Ivoire. “It is therefore crucial that agents in charge of registration at entries and exits points are trained and equipped to be able to identify and respond effectively to health risks.”
As of 11 May, more than 1,600 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported by the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene of Côte d’Ivoire.
The closure of border posts has a heavy impact on the border communities’ economic activities. The provision of training and equipment will enable border officials to conduct their activities safely and reopen the border posts quickly, as well as prevent and detect possible COVID-19 cases.
During the month of May, border officials will be trained in how to use the equipment, as well as in the registration at crossing points and referral of suspected cases by IOM and local partners.
Border officials, as frontline workers in the COVID-19 response, will also be provided with registration forms that will allow for the development of a mobility profile at the different POEs. In the longer term, the equipment and training for border officials will help ensure a smooth transition towards the reopening – even partial – of Côte d’Ivoire’s borders.
This training activity is part of the project, “Enhance the capacity of Côte d’Ivoire’s authorities to Comprehensively Address Trafficking in Persons and Migrant Smuggling – COCOTIP” funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
For more information, please contact Marina Schramm, IOM Chief of Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (email@example.com).
For more information on IOM's regional COVID-19 response, please contact Florence Kim, Tel: +221 786206213, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.Language English Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 13:00Image: Region-Country: Côte d'IvoireThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia:
Last week, IOM provided food and hygiene kits to 13 stranded migrants. (IOM)
Information session about assisted voluntary return by IOM staff in Noé. (IOM)Press Release Type: Global
Total Number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) in East & Horn of Africa Drastically Drops in 2019
Nairobi – The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in East Africa and the Horn of Africa has dropped considerably in the past six months. A new report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says the reason is largely due to one development: 1.3 million Ethiopians displaced by communal violence in 2019 went home.
Moreover, another 200,000 former IDPs were able to return to their homes in South Sudan and other countries.
At the midpoint of 2019 [WA1] [WA2], the East and Horn of Africa region (EHoA) was home to 8.1 million IDPs and 3.5 million refugees and asylum-seekers. Today, the 3.5 million refugees and asylum seekers remain, but there are only 6.3 million IDPs.
This represents almost a 22 per cent fall in IDPs in the region in just six months, according to the just released report, Region on the Move, which provides an overview of migration patterns in the region.
“The overall drop in the number of internally displaced persons in East & Horn of Africa means peace and security has returned and migrants feel safe to return home,” said Mohammed Abdiker, Regional Director, IOM, East & Horn of Africa.
Published by IOM’s Nairobi-based Regional Data Hub (RDH), the report explains that intercommunal violence in Ethiopia at the beginning of 2019 is estimated to have forced more than three million people to flee their homes. Yet by the end of the year, of the 6.3 million IDPs spread across the region. only 1.7 million remained in displacement across 1,199 sites in Ethiopia. Sixty-six per cent of those IDPs were affected by conflict, 22 per cent by drought and six per cent by seasonal flooding.
In contrast, the report also found in Somalia and South Sudan that intercommunal conflict-driven displacement fueled by instability and insecurity persisted. The report also noted that intercommunal clashes linked to ethnic tensions and cattle raiding were still prominent in Ethiopia and South Sudan, respectively.
Despite the overall reduction in the number of regional IDPs, Region on the Move found that new displacements in 2019 continued to be triggered largely by climate and environmental hazards. Such hazards included a prolonged, severe drought in the Horn of Africa region which impacted food security for the most part on areas in Somalia, northern Kenya, southeastern Ethiopia, northern Uganda and Djibouti.
“We are concerned about new displacement in Somalia and South Sudan, and climate-induced displacement, particularly as it affects some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities who risk their lives on dangerous journeys,” IOM’s Abdiker added.
Devastating floods following unprecedented heavy rains were also observed in the second half of the year. Heavy rains created favorable conditions for desert locusts, whose breeding contribute to a current infestation across East Africa—mainly in Ethiopia and Somalia--but also spreading to Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.
The region continues to see large numbers of people migrating towards the Arab Peninsula – along the Eastern Route – with 138,213 migrant crossings to Yemen from the Horn of Africa. This was notwithstanding the 120,825 forced returns of Ethiopian nationals led by the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2019.
Comparatively, the number of arrivals of East & Horn of Africa migrants registered across European arrival points in Greece, Italy and Spain fell from 4,624 in 2018 to 3,452 in 2019.
- IOM tracked more than 740,000 movements of migrants from observation points across the region. Fifty-eight per cent of people traveled for economic reasons, 12 per cent due to seasonal reasons, 11 per cent to escape conflict, six per cent due to natural disaster, while five per cent was short-term local movements, and four per cent moved for unknown reasons.
- The two main nationalities of migrants tracked through flow monitoring were Ethiopian (76 per cent) and Somali (20 per cent).
- 58 per cent were adult males, 24 per cent were adult females and 18 per cent were children.
- Out of the 744,113 movements observed, 63 per cent were tracked along the Eastern Route to Yemen and onward to the Middle East through Djibouti, Somaliland or Puntland. Thirty-three per cent travelled on the Horn of Africa Route towards countries located in the Horn, two per cent along the Northern Route to Egypt, Libya—and sometimes onward to Europe—and two per cent along the Southern Route to South Africa.
- Overall, 50 per cent were migrating towards Saudi Arabia, 16 per cent intended to travel to Somalia, 12 per cent were headed to Yemen, 12 per cent to Ethiopia and five per cent to Djibouti.
- IOM registered 120,825 Ethiopian nationals returning from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia upon arrival at the Bole Airport in Addis Ababa between January and December 2019, 99.6 per cent of which reported that they were returning involuntarily.
- In 2019, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project recorded 66 migrants as dead and another 33 as missing in the East and Horn of Africa region.
Established in early 2018 at IOM’s Regional Office for the East and Horn of Africa (EHoA), the Regional Data Hub (RDH) is funded largely through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa. Publications and the 2019 RDH snapshot can be consulted at https://ronairobi.iom.int/regional-data-hub-rdh.
For more information, please contact at the IOM Regional Office in Nairobi: Laura Nistri, Tel: +254 204 221 000, Email: email@example.com;
For media enquiries, please contact at the IOM Regional Office in Nairobi: Yvonne Ndege Tel: +254 797735977, Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgLanguage English Posted: Friday, May 8, 2020 - 12:40Image: Region-Country: KenyaThemes: Internally Displaced PersonsDefault: Multimedia:
The region remains in flux, with movements resulting from catastrophe and for personal reasons. Photo: IOM/Alexander BeePress Release Type: Global
Kinshasa—While the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is confronting the public health emergency posed by COVID-19, the country is still facing the last phase of its Ebola virus epidemic.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on 10 March 2020 in Kinshasa. Since then, the number of COVID-19 patients has increased, exceeding 700 cases at the beginning of May.
Meanwhile the International Organization for Migration (IOM) remains on the frontlines facing the country’s tenth Ebola virus outbreak since August 2018, working side-by-side with the government and health actors to bring the emergency in eastern DRC to an end.
At borders crossings, entrances to major cities and other busy transit hubs, IOM brings its expertise in supporting the National Border Hygiene Program (PNHF), setting up and managing 108 health screening points where travelers wash their hands and get checked for Ebola disease symptoms. Through this past April, over 170 million travelers have been screened and 10,000 alerts reported.
To date, 4,000 persons have been affected by the Ebola Virus disease.
“We are now building on this expertise to support the measures taken by the authorities in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the country”, said Fabien Sambussy, IOM Chief of Mission in the DRC.
COVID-19 currently affects seven provinces in the DRC. In the commune of Gombe--the current epicenter of COVID-19 in the DRC--IOM has established over 60 handwashing stations and five new screening points where frontline workers check for physical symptoms of the disease.
Together with humanitarian partners, IOM is ensuring new frontline workers are properly trained. IOM also tries to see that anyone displaying symptoms of COVID-19 is isolated and receives care.
In certain sectors of the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, the extreme vulnerability of people who cannot afford self-isolation led to a request of the Technical Secretariat of the COVID-19 response in the DRC that IOM open an isolation site for less severe confirmed COVID-19 cases in the capital city.
This site, with an initial capacity of around 100 patients, will allow the most vulnerable to be isolated while assisted with basic needs, including health care. By providing these patients with a location for isolation and adequate follow-up by qualified health personnel, the risk of widespread infection within communities is mitigated.
Since the beginning of April, more than half a million people have been checked for symptoms of the disease at these new screening points, in line with physical distancing and other prevention recommendations. A total of 23 cases of alerts have been reported to the authorities for further investigation.
In addition, IOM in the DRC continues to strongly advocate for the inclusion of displaced and migrant populations in national preparedness and response plans for public health crises like Ebola and COVID-19.
For more information, please contact: Daco Tambikila, IOM DRC, Tél. +243 813 527 041Email: email@example.comLanguage English Posted: Friday, May 8, 2020 - 12:18Image: Region-Country: Democratic Republic of the CongoThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia:
IOM staff stand ready to supervise COVID-19 preventive measures activities at a point of control in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo: IOMPress Release Type: Global
Bossaso, Puntland – Hundreds of migrants are stranded in Bossaso, Puntland, Somalia, as a result of border and sea-crossing closures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every year scores of migrants, mainly from landlocked Ethiopia, pass through Bossaso seeking to cross the Gulf of Aden to war-torn Yemen, and hoping to proceed onward to Gulf countries, particulary Saudi Arabia. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that one day last month, approximately 600 migrants reached Bossaso in Puntland, in a single day.
IOM data show that migration in the Eastern route is still taking place despite the new border restrictions in the region. In comparison to data collected in the first half of April in 2019, there have been 501 more arrivals in Bossaso, but departures have fallen, with 8,261 less migrants trying to cross the Gulf of Aden during the same dates.
While more people continue to arrive in Bossaso, higher number of Ethiopian migrants are stranded in the city. IOM estimates that nearly 400 migrants are currently hosted by members of the Ethiopian community living in informal settlements around the city.
Fassil, aged 19 is a migrant from Tigray region in Ethiopia, now living amid the Ethiopian community in Bossaso. “I have been here for around three months,” he said. “The coronavirus has changed everything. I cannot continue, I cannot go back because all borders are closed.”
After a lengthy journey – likely exposed to violence, abuse and exploitation – migrants face precarious conditions in Bossaso, where they often cannot access water, sanitation, shelter or food upon arrival.
IOM, thanks to the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), the EU-IOM Joint Initiative and the Migration Resource Allocation Committee (MIRAC), is helping Fassil and migrants like him. These partners in Bossaso provide direct assistance and basic health services through the Migration Reception Centre (MRC), a drop-in centre for migrants. Among other activities, water is distributed weekly to migrants stranded in informal settlements.
“We do our best to help them in coordination with IOM and local authorities; however, if their numbers increase, and they cannot cross the sea due to the closure of borders, their well-being will be in great danger,” explained Ahmed Shirie, the Chairman of the Ethiopian community in Bossaso.
Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Puntland on 19 April, stranded migrants in Bossaso also began facing more stigma and abuses due to misinformation. There have been several social media posts blaming migrants for being carriers of the virus who are responsible for local transmission. So far no migrants have tested positive in Puntland.
“IOM is concerned about the stigma that many migrants are facing since COVID-19 started to spread in the region,” said Isaac Munyae, the Programme Manager of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa, which has been assisting stranded migrants since 2017.
Fearing deportation from Somalia and the stigma linked to the surge of COVID-19, many Ethiopian women and children, now are attempting to return to Ethiopia.
IOM is working closely with Puntland authorities as well as with Federal Government of Somalia and the Office of the Special Envoy for Children’s and Migrants’ Rights to ensure that migrants have access to basic services, including health. IOM, in close liaison with the Federal Government of Somalia, is also advocating for non-deportation and for the safe and voluntary return of stranded migrants to their countries of origin.
One such would be returnee, Tarik, is a young woman from Amhara region in Ethiopia.
“I have been stranded in Bossaso for one month now,” she said. “Going to the Gulf was my intention, but I don’t have enough money and my family cannot support me. Now I want to go back.”
For more information reach out to the IOM Somalia Programme Support Unit, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: +254 705 832 020Language English Posted: Friday, May 8, 2020 - 12:30Image: Region-Country: SomaliaThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia:
IOM Migration Response Centre in Bossaso, Somalia, provides direct assistance and basic health services to migrants stranded in the city. Credit to Muse Mohammed March 2020.Press Release Type: Global
Freetown – With more than 14,000 Ebola cases and nearly 4,000 deaths, Sierra Leone was one of the hardest hit countries by the 2014 – 2016 outbreak. Ebola overwhelmed the country’s fragile public health system, which was still rebuilding after a brutal civil war, and struggling to meet demands for additional healthcare practitioners.
Now Sierra Leone faces COVID-19. As of 7 May, there were 225 confirmed cases and 14 deaths related to COVID-19 in the country.
These numbers, actually, are low compared to other countries in the region. That’s in part because of what Sierra Leone learned from the Ebola outbreak.
Sierra Leone developed a COVID-19 preparedness plan three weeks before its first case was confirmed. This enabled the Ministry of Health to quickly identify, test and quarantine most of the primary contacts of the index case, thereby limiting spread of the disease.
In a region known for its porous land borders and high degree of cross-border trade, disease surveillance and health screening are key to detection and referring potentially ill travelers to adequate healthcare structures to limit the spread of any disease. Engaging with communities in high risk border areas, crowded urban slums and informal settlements also plays a significant role in further preventing the spread of a disease.
“During the Ebola, IOM conducted a nationwide programme on Infection Prevention and Control training for frontline workers, officials at border points, established water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) surveillance systems at key points of entry (POE) and community engagement on hygiene practices to break the chain of transmission,” says Dr James Bagonza who leads IOM operations in Sierra Leone.
In 2016, after the Sierra Leone became Ebola-free, the country counted 156 doctors and 5,668 nurses for a population of just over 7 million people, according to the World Health Organization. Although the human resources are still limited, since then, the Sierra Leone government has made substantial improvements to its public health system, especially in response to COVID-19. As of 9 April, there were 130 hospital beds available for COVID-19, 200 oxygen concentrators and 15 beds for patients needing intensive care.
Sierra Leone, with other countries hard hit by Ebola, received other support from the international community allowing for the deployment of treatment centres and the training of frontline workers in infection prevention and control. The revitalization of the country’s disease surveillance system, the establishment of emergency operation centers (at both at national and district levels), and the development of strong networks to support community outreach and mobilization also played crucial roles in putting the country in better share to withstand the contagion.
When COVID-19 broke out, these measures were immediately upgraded and applied to stem the propagation of disease in the country. Even before the first case of COVID-19 was signaled in the country on 31 March 2020. IOM worked closely with Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health (MOH) through emergency operation centers set-up during the Ebola crisis, to support the country’s preparedness and response to COVID-19.
“We are now revamping our infection prevention training, social mobilization and health screening in local communities especially in border areas with our network of volunteers to ensure that everyone, regardless of social class, is informed and empowered to protect themselves and their loved ones against the disease,” Dr Bagonza said.
IOM conducted a rapid vulnerability assessment of the 16 districts of Sierra Leone in collaboration with the MOH. At the Ministry’s request, IOM trained and deployed 60 community health workers equipped with infection prevention and control (IPC) materials to conduct health screening and communication activities at prioritized locations such as ports and ground crossing points in five of the country’s districts.
Back in 2014, the first case of Ebola was recorded in Kailahun, a town located about 320 kilometers from Freetown but less than 10 kilometers from the border with Guinea. “IOM’s priority is to reinforce and reactivate health screening at high volume informal crossing points in coastal areas as well as wharfs in border areas with high economic activity were people from neighboring Guinea and Liberia continue to enter Sierra Leone despite border closures,” Dr Bagonza explained.
Hard-to-reach border communities and coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because of limited access to information and the lack proper healthcare infrastructures and personnel to adequately screen and quarantine suspected cases. To ensure that everyone has access to lifesaving information on IOM works with youth, community leaders and returning migrants to raise awareness on COVID-19 preventive measures in these areas.
In total, more than 200,000 people have been reached in crowded Freetown, in informal settlements, coastal communities and border areas. Returning migrants also joined the fight against COVID-19 and recorded a song to encourage communities to adopt and respect preventive measures.
IOM’s response to COVID-19 in Sierra Leone is supported by the Governments of the Netherlands, Japan and the United States.
For more information on IOM’s regional COVID-19 response, please contact Florence Kim at the IOM Regional Office for West and Central Africa, Email: email@example.comLanguage English Posted: Friday, May 8, 2020 - 12:45Image: Region-Country: Sierra LeoneThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia:
POE personnel conducting screening at Tombo Wharf, a major trade and transport hub located in Freetown. Photo: IOM/Alfred FornahPress Release Type: Global
New York – COVID-19 does not care who we are, where we live, what we believe or about any other distinction. We need every ounce of solidarity to tackle it together. Yet the pandemic continues to unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering.
Anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred. Migrants and refugees have been vilified as a source of the virus – and then denied access to medical treatment.
With older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes have emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable. And journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs.
We must act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate. That’s why I’m appealing today for an all-out effort to end hate speech globally.
I call on political leaders to show solidarity with all members of their societies and build and reinforce social cohesion.
I call on educational institutions to focus on digital literacy at a time when billions of young people are online – and when extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences.
I call on the media, especially social media companies, to do much more to flag and, in line with international human rights law, remove racist, misogynist and other harmful content.
I call on civil society to strengthen outreach to vulnerable people, and religious actors to serve as models of mutual respect.
And I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and take every opportunity to spread kindness.
Last year, I launched the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech to enhance United Nations efforts against this scourge. As we combat this pandemic, we have a duty to protect people, end stigma and prevent violence.
Let’s defeat hate speech – and COVID-19 - together.
United Nations Secretary-General António GuterresLanguage English Posted: Friday, May 8, 2020 - 13:33Image: Region-Country: United States of AmericaThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia: Press Release Type: Global
Bangkok – Five years on from the 2015 ‘boat crisis’ in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, in which thousands of refugees and migrants in distress at sea were denied life-saving care and support, we are alarmed that a similar tragedy may be unfolding once more.
We are deeply concerned by reports that boats full of vulnerable women, men and children are again adrift in the same waters, unable to come ashore, and without access to urgently needed food, water, and medical assistance. There is no easy solution to the irregular maritime movements of refugees and migrants. Deterring movements of people by endangering life is not only ineffective; it violates basic human rights, the law of the sea and the principles of customary international law by which all States are equally bound.
We call on States in the region to uphold the commitments of the 2016 Bali Declaration as well as ASEAN pledges to protect the most vulnerable and to leave no one behind. Not doing so may jeopardize thousands of lives of smuggled or trafficked persons, including the hundreds of Rohingya currently at sea.
As we have seen time and time again, in desperate situations – whether in search of safety and protection or basic survival – people will move, whatever obstacles are put in their way.
Saving lives must be the first priority. We recognize that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, States have erected border management measures to manage risks to public health. These measures, however, should not result in the closure of avenues to asylum, or in forcing people to either return to situations of danger or seek to land clandestinely, without health screening or quarantine. States can – and should – ensure that our common concerns relating to public health and security are matched with a re-affirmation of solidarity and compassion.
Faced again with the need to find a regional solution to a regional problem, as was the case during the 2015 crisis, it is important to build on the solid cooperation and planning that has already been undertaken by ASEAN and the Bali Process to address irregular maritime movements.
We call on States to continue and expand search and rescue efforts, and to ensure that landing procedures and reception conditions are safe and humane. Some States in the region have already demonstrated that health screening and quarantine arrangements can be implemented so that people can disembark in a safe, orderly and dignified manner. Search and rescue must be combined with arrangements for prompt disembarkation to a place of safety.
Now is the time for governments in the region to recall the commitments made in the Bali Declaration. We urge the Bali Process Co-Chairs to activate the Consultative Mechanism to convene affected countries and facilitate a timely and regional resolution of the crisis in the Andaman Sea.
We also call on States in the region that are not directly impacted to offer support to those States that do proceed with rescue and disembarkation.
IOM, UNHCR and UNODC reaffirm our support to States across the region to provide immediate assistance to asylum-seekers, refugees and vulnerable migrants, as well as to strengthen the broader response capacity to respond to irregular movements.
UNHCR, IOM and UNODC have dedicated capacities that can be mobilized to assist States and local authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including support for initial health assistance, information dissemination, and where appropriate to ensure that quarantine procedures are followed.
In the longer term, a sustainable and comprehensive response to the movement of refugees and migrants cannot be achieved without concerted international cooperation. We encourage States to draw upon the Global Compact for Migration and Global Compact for Refugees to promote a sustainable and comprehensive response to the movement of refugees and migrants.
This includes establishing effective, predictable and equitable disembarkation arrangements anchored in a broader strategy with safe and legal migration options, including for family reunification.
In line with the United Nations Transnational Organized Crime Convention and its Protocols, signed by all States of the region, traffickers and smugglers should be investigated and prosecuted for their crimes in full accordance with international standards for human rights, while fully respecting the rights of victims. States should underscore the existing political commitment to zero tolerance towards the criminal elements facilitating movements and taking advantage of the vulnerable.
Equally, international action and solidarity are essential to tackle the drivers of refugee and irregular migrant movements, including statelessness, discrimination, deprivation, persecution, and other violations of human rights.
Without collective efforts to address these interlocking issues, this human tragedy will continue to unfold over and over again. We call on States to break this cycle now.
For further information, please contact:
International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok
Itayi Viriri, firstname.lastname@example.org, +63 917 890 8785
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok
Catherine Stubberfield, email@example.com, +66 65 929 8062
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok
Rebecca Miller, firstname.lastname@example.org, +66 81 418 8468Language English Posted: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - 19:17Image: Region-Country: ThailandThemes: Rohingya CrisisDefault: Multimedia: Press Release Type: Global
Port of Spain – Let's call her Amanda. Her real identity must be protected.
Amanda left Venezuela to seek work opportunities in Trinidad and Tobago. Someone recruited her for a job in prostitution, but after a few days, they denied her freedom of movement, subdued her through physical abuse, withheld her wages, and forced her to work extremely long hours.
They kept her enslaved for two months until she and 11 other women escaped and made contact with law enforcement officers. Amanda was referred to the office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Port of Spain, and since then, she has been receiving emergency shelter.
During crises, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, migrant women like Amanda are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Perpetrators seek to take advantage of their circumstances: financial insecurity, lack of awareness of their legal rights, language barriers, and their irregular immigration status in many countries of destination.
IOM's 2019 Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) report revealed that 70 per cent of refugees and migrants from Venezuela arrive in Trinidad and Tobago through unofficial ports of entry.
Last week, as part of the joint UN Interagency COVID-19 response, IOM provided thirty dignity kits to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) Gender Based Violence Unit (GBVU).
"I am super grateful for the help; me and my daughter are very happy,” said Amanda. “I hope God blesses them because they have given us this support when we needed it most and we are really very grateful. Since being in this situation and with this problem (COVID-19) it has really affected us a lot also in my work ... I hope that God blesses them."
IOM worked with three other victims from this particular case. Others opted to return home or have not been in contact with IOM. In total IOM is currently assisting 50 victims of trafficking in the country.
"IOM is addressing human trafficking and gender-based violence throughout its operations, prioritizing the safety, dignity, well-being, and equal access to services for all migrant women and girls across all crisis responses," said Jewel Ali, IOM Head of Office in Trinidad and Tobago.
The TTPS Gender Based Violence unit has made significant efforts towards ensuring the protection of victims of gender-based violence since its establishment on 21 January 2020. By reviewing global trends relating to gender-based crimes and crises, the GBVU is committed to developing and implementing systems for effective service delivery.
The support provided by IOM to the TTPS-GBV Unit is possible thanks to the funding of the US State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and UN Women.
For more information, contact Cherlez Philip at IOM Trinidad and Tobago, Email: email@example.com.Language English Posted: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - 12:30Image: Region-Country: Trinidad and TobagoThemes: Counter-TraffickingDefault: Multimedia:
IOM delivered 30 dignity kits for victims of gender-based violence (GBV) hosted at the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) shelter. Jewel Ali (right), IOM head of office at IOM Port of Spain, handed out the kits to Mrs. Claire Guy Alleyne, Head of the GBV Unit of the TTPS. Photo: TTPS Audio Visual Unit.Press Release Type: Global