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Migrants trapped by the coronavirus

► In Asia, two million Bangladeshi migrants could return home

Twelve million Bangladeshis work abroad. They paid for it “Broker” which made it easier for them to enter, for example, the Emirates or Singapore. Once there, they had to buy a work visa. Some of these migrants attempted the journey to Europe across the Mediterranean.

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The coming economic crisis, due to the coronavirus, could see two million of these Bangladeshi migrants return home. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have already returned a thousand of them by charter. “States employing these migrants have asked the Bangladeshi government to send planes to repatriate those they no longer need. If Bangladesh does not do so, they have threatened to no longer call on its workers for the future, ” says Shakirul Islam. He heads the Okup NGO in Dhaka, which helps migrants. So, the country turned to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for logistical support in these repatriations.

Shakirul Islam, supported by Secours Catholique-Caritas France, is in touch with families and migrants, via social networks. He informs them of the help they can get in countries where they are confined and unemployed. Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia host soup kitchens. Bahrain has promised to legalize those who do not have work visas. “Singapore has pledged to pay the wages of arrested migrants. The state concentrates them in homes and provides them with medical assistance. “ emphasizes Shakirul Islam.

He has recorded good news in this ocean of uncertainty. “Italy has decided to give papers to the 600 Bangladeshi migrants who have arrived on its shores. She is going to use them for the crops, because Italy no longer has seasonal workers from Eastern Europe. “

► In the Middle East, Syrian refugees fear for their safety

In Lebanon, for the past nine years, 1.5 million Syrian refugees have been confined, often in makeshift camps, under plastic sheeting. Hans Bederski, for World Vision, supplies 300,000 of these refugees with food and water. He observes “Growing hostility towards them, fueled by the difficult economic conditions in Lebanon. These refugees fear for their safety when they have to withdraw from the cash machines the 100 € paid each month on their refugee card. So, we give them an appointment at the distributor to protect them during their withdrawals. “ Lebanese authorities fear entry of the virus into informal camps, which would spread rapidly due to the overcrowding. So far, the country is relatively spared with a total of 22 dead.

In addition, in Israel, many migrants from Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Philippines and Sri Lanka are in an irregular situation, without a work permit. A French social worker testifies: “They are employed in cleaning, personal service or in supermarkets. Since the crisis, most of them have been forced to leave their jobs without compensation. Some fearing that they would be deported no longer dare to go out. Families are confined to small dwellings, where children find it difficult to continue their education normally. Because they do not understand Hebrew, parents cannot help their children to study. “

► In Africa, sub-Saharan migrants are immobilized

Sub-Saharan migrants who wanted to chart their route to Europe find themselves stranded. In Mali, in Gao, Mahamoudou Dicko, a former migrant, created the NGO direy ben, partner of CCFD-Terre solidaire. He collected 17 Malian, Guinean and Ivorian migrants, turned back by Algeria. “The border is closed. Migrants have been stranded here for over a month. With confinement, there are no more buses or military escorts to get them from Gao to Bamako from where he could join their families. “

In Niger, in Agadez, another crossing point for migrants, the local population spared from the coronavirus fears that these migrants will carry the epidemic. Seydou Assane, director of an alternative radio, explains: “At the end of March, local authorities confined 667 migrants, 200 of whom had been abandoned by smugglers, in the desert, near the Libyan border, to the national stadium. About 40 tried to escape from the stadium, but the police caught them. “

On the other side of the border, in Algeria, migrants also find themselves confined, without work and without resources. Insaf Guerchi, at Doctors of the World in Algiers, organizes food distributions for these migrants “Who live on the construction sites where they worked and who are at a standstill. “ She also notes “With the confinement, the roundups that were driving back towards the border with the Sahel an average of 500 migrants per month stopped. “

Insaf Guerchi has so far only been aware of one migrant with symptoms of coronavirus. “He did not want to come forward for fear of being deported, but the migrants who shared his camp did not want him to stay. He was hospitalized. “

In Latin America, migrants leave and collide at borders

In South America too, faced with the fear of the epidemic, borders have closed. Particularly those with Brazil, a country suspected of having many more cases than announced. In Sao Paulo and Rio, migrants from Haiti, Africa, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru, work in textile factories in particular. They often live in the workplace, in confined homes where the epidemic can spread quickly.

They do not have access to the compensation of 130 € per month provided by the Brazilian government for those who have lost their jobs. Paulo Illes of the NGO Espacio sin Fronteras, partner of the CCFD-Terre solidaire, explains that “Migrants who have nothing left to eat return to Paraguay or Bolivia. But these neighboring countries impose quarantines on their nationals, in closed places where food is not provided. This is also the case for Bolivians who worked in Chile and who want to return, since they have no more work. “. Undocumented Brazilian workers were also present in Europe. Some were able to benefit from the planes made available to the Brazilian government to bring its tourists on vacation to Europe.


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