COVID-19 is a global pandemic that impacts everyone and does not discriminate based on citizenship. Refugees are part of communities. The speed with which COVID-19 has spread around the globe has been as extraordinary as the impact it has had on communities. This includes refugee communities, but in very particular ways. From refugees in remote and isolated camps, to refugees living in precarious conditions in urban settings, to all whose movement has been blocked by the closing of borders and increased state controls, scores of refugees have been significantly affected both by the arrival of the virus and by state policies implemented in response.
We heard how refugees have been excluded from healthcare systems in hard-hit countries like Iran, how the shut-down of the economy in countries has made previously self-reliant refugees destitute and desperate, and how asylum seekers in Greece remain in cramped conditions ripe for the rapid spread of the virus
Many refugees face additional risks and vulnerabilities at this time because:
• They / we have fewer resources to deal with the economic impacts of lockdowns (e.g. are more likely to be reliant on informal economy and insecure employment).
• Some don’t have the freedom or privilege to move and practice social distancing.
• They / we have less access to medical services due to legal status, scarcity and affordability issues.
• They/we have less or no access to government services and support.
• They / we have less access to reliable local information about COVID-19, including in community languages.
• Where there are tensions between local and refugee communities, this can be made worse when people feel insecure etc.
There are many examples of refugee led-initiatives that are effective, innovative and impactful because:
• The needs and solutions are identified from within communities.
• We know best what will work.
• We are committed and accountable to our own communities etc.
Refugees and refugee-led initiatives face challenges including:
• Lack of access to decision-makers to make sure responses are inclusive of refugees
• Lack of resources to carry out activities and make an impact
• Inability to register organizations and access bank accounts in some places etc.
Asia Pacific Network of Refugees (APNOR) is the only region-wide refugee-led network of refugee-led initiatives in the Asia Pacific region that is working with and for refugees. APNOR was established in 2018, on the recommendation of Asia Pacific Summit of Refugees (APSOR).