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The impact of Covid-19 among immigrants in Europe

The COVID-19 is continuing on its way and a crucial part of our response to the pandemic is to make sure that all members of society have the information they need to stay healthy and follow quarantine guidelines. The European Union is working in order to ensure that migrants are not overlooked in the response. Authorities have also made an effort to communicate critical information in multiple languages.

The European Commission – in the guise of European Web site on integration – is monitoring national and local authorities, civil society and international organisations which are reaching out to migrant communities. Outreach activities help ensure that everyone has necessary information about health guidelines and COVID-19-related measures. In some cases, outreach also seeks to let people know that they can get treatment for the virus even if they are not covered under the typical national health insurance plan.

The EU thought about the Intercultural Cities Programme of the Council of Europe which has put together a webpage on good and promising practices that address the challenges for equality, diversity and human rights as a result of the pandemic. The page includes dedicated sections on migrants, multilingualism and non-discrimination.

Many countries have planned and strengthened integration programmes. The Swedish government, for example, has announced that various labour market integration programmes will be extended for 12 months, allowing people whose subsidies would expire in the near future to remain employed. In Denmark, instead, the pandemic is putting integration programmes on hold. In Spain, asylum seekers and refugees may benefit from relaxed conditions for accessing and receiving aid from the asylum system during the pandemic.

As social distancing rules and guidelines are being implemented across Europe, authorities and migrant associations have expressed concern about the living conditions of some of the most vulnerable members of society. In Italy, migrants living in reception centres have written an open letter to authorities expressing their concerns about living in close, confined spaces. Officials have voiced concerns about the conditions of asylum seeker camps on the Greek islands. In Portugal, one municipality has prepared 500 quarantine places in case any foreign agricultural workers need to be isolated. In Malta, the Hal Far reception centre has been placed under mandatory quarantine following positive test results after 8 of the centre’s 1,000 residents tested positive for COVID-19. In response, a new medical centre accommodating 150 people will open nearby to treat and isolate patients.

The European Commission – as concerns residence and work permits – said: “the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted procedures to apply for and obtain residence and work permits, as government offices have reduced their services or closed during this time. Moreover, economic uncertainty related to the pandemic may have an impact on demand for work permits. On the subject of work, it is also worth noting that in some countries, many doctors, nurses and caretakers are immigrants.”

On this way, Portugal took a big step in ensuring that all migrants have access to health care and other necessary services during this difficult time. Similar policies took place in Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Spain.

By: Ovidiu Stanica

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