COVID-19: University Don Urges Governments To Protect Migrants
As COVID-19 continues to ravage humanity and migrants facing health challenges in their destination countries, a university lecturer and a Consultant, Civil Society Network on Migration and Development, Prof. Kanu Ikechukwu has said that governments must protect migrants during this period by being sensitive to their access to health services just like other nationals.
This is just as he also posited that there cannot be sustainable development when the health of migrants is not put into consideration.
Kanu ,who is a Professor of Religion and Cultural Studies, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Tansian University, Enugu, said this today while delivering a paper titled, “COVID-19 and the Health of Migrants” at the Journalists International Forum for Migration (JIFORM) International Online Migration Summit.
COVID-19 pandemic, he said has brought difficult situations for citizens of nations across the world, adding that the effects, however, may be more severe for others, such as vulnerable migrants, who are not only in desperate situations but whose conditions may well further deteriorate if not put into consideration.
Migrants, he contended may not attract priority attention at a time governments are mobilising all resources to care for their citizens and these concerns make the discussion on COVID-19 and the health of migrants a fundamental one.
On how governments can attend to the health of migrants beyond placing them in camps, the Professor said, “If they treat migrants well, they would turn out to be a blessing to their nation. Many of the great men and women in America are migrants. Treating them well gives them the right mental attitude that their home countries might have failed to give them.”
To buttress his point, he quoted, Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, who said, “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal. Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude”.
The world, the Consultant said cannot talk about sustainable development without caring for the health and wellbeing of migrants and that this is exactly where COVID-19 and migrants take their place.
According to him, “Migrants must be protected by governments during this period of COVID-19 by being sensitive to their access to health services in the same way as other nationals.”
On the way forward in view of the discussions on the consequences of COVID-19 on migration, Prof. Kanu said, “The present situation calls for an inclusive approach by public health efforts in relation to the health of migrants, in such a way that is all inclusive. While governments need to tighten their borders and implement other measures in response to COVID-19, they also need to consider the impact of these on migrants and ensure that such actions do not prevent people from accessing safety, health-care services, and information. “There is the need to reconsider the unjustified fear or suspicion of migrants as careers of disease. This stigmatization has several consequences on the receiving countries as migrants are more likely to be slow at seeking treatment or disclosing symptoms out of fear.”
Speaking further, he said “National public health systems should always consider migrants in their various schemes- they should be such that the migrants can afford. This is important as the world continues to work towards the Sustainable Development Goals.”
He pointed out that there cannot be sustainable development when the health of migrants is not put into consideration, calling for an orientation for migrants, right from the time they are received at the borders of nations on the precautionary measures to take during this period of COVID-19.
These measures, measure he stated should also be written or presented in languages that the migrants can understand and through appropriate communication tools.