The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today called on governments to systematically include migrants, irrespective of legal status, in their programmes and policies aiming to address the Covid-19 pandemic.
Christine Cipolla, ICRC's Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, said, "Governments in the region should do more for the migrants. It is in their best interest. It saves lives, it protects the society as a whole."
"Only by including all members of a society, irrespective of legal status, can this unprecedented public health situation be addressed effectively."
Migrants, including refugees, make up a large part of the population in several countries in Asia and the Pacific, the region with the largest south-south migratory movements, an ICRC statement said.
It says migrants play a crucial role for the economies in these countries, and for their families in the countries of origin, who depend on their remittance. However, migrants also face a range of vulnerabilities, in particular regarding access to services, which can be further exacerbated by their exposure to Covid-19.
"As in any situation related to public health, preventive measures only have a chance of success if all members of a community and society are included in, and informed of, the measures taken," Cipolla adds.
"It is likely less costly, both in human lives and financially, to introduce inclusive preventive measures, than to risk an increased number of COVID-19 patients."
The ICRC also came up with some recommendations.
First, specific outreach and public information strategies in a language understood by the migrants are needed to ensure their equal access to preventive measures, testing, treatment, and to remove barriers that could prevent them for seeking help owing to fear of arrest or deportation.
Second, particular attention should be paid to migrants living in overcrowded and or unhealthy environments, with the development of comprehensive contingency plans that follow public health guidance.
Then, any lockdown, quarantine, or isolation measures that may be justified in such settings should be accompanied by adequate prevention measures and appropriate medical preparedness and response.
Lastly, as far as possible, access to emergency housing suitable for the implementation of Covid-19 measures should be offered without barriers related to immigration status and to those in need for whom there are no alternative accommodation options in the community.