Pandemic shows immigrants are essential

The pandemic has highlighted that immigrants are essential to the fabric of our society, Cardinal Michael Czerny SJ says.

Czerny, who has been the under-secretary of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development’s Migrants and Refugees Section since 2017, is urging people to develop local solutions to address the needs of immigrant and refugee families around the world.

“There are no global responses, there are only local answers. You see why our Migrants and Refugees Section is most interested in what’s going on on the ground, at the borders, on the Mediterranean, in the farm belts…”

Immigrants often fill jobs of an essential nature in their adoptive countries, he points out.

“Who are the orderlies and the cleaning people and who are the support staff in the hospitals? Who are the people who are picking the fruit and vegetables…?”

“Who are the people who are taking care of our elderly or challenged people or other people who need support and care?”

“Many, many, many of them are …[migrants or refugees], who are here doing the work because it’s the work we need.”

During the pandemic, governments have severely limited opportunities for migrants and refugees to enter their countries. Some nations, including the United States, have given temporary visas to people who do “essential” jobs like seasonal work or meatpacking.

“Until now, we sort of took them for granted – and some political forces even tried to use them for political advantage,” Czerny says.

“But the fact is, they are essential supports for our societies and for our communities and for our families – and suddenly, the COVID-19 spotlight reveals that without the help of these people, we can’t go on.”

Unfortunately the virus has also made already-vulnerable people become more vulnerable to illness and to exploitation, “whether they are migrants… or asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking or internally displaced people,” Czerny says.

Some countries have created pathways for immigrants to receive healthcare, realizing “the virus doesn’t distinguish between citizens and migrants. You’ve got to stop the virus wherever it’s spreading.” In addition Italy, for example, has announced an amnesty so illegal migrants.

Despite these and other measures, Czerny says the exploitation of undocumented migrants for slave labor is probably going up during lockdown.

He explains that in countries enforcing quarantines a lot of international movement has stopped. However, people in desperate situations continue to try to find work or safety, so some “movement continues, and unfortunately criminal activity continues.

“So, let’s not continue this blatant contradiction: saying ‘Yes, let them come and help us,’ but, ‘No they’re not allowed to come. That doesn’t make any sense at all.”


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , ,