The COVID19 pandemic has sparked differing responses throughout the world. In Central America and the Caribbean, a common response has been the closure of borders or alterations in border management policies.
In implementing these changes and working through the pandemic, IOM offers the following five recommendations to personnel involved in Immigration and Border Management.
- Deliver COVID19 Training to Immigration and Border Health Staff
It is important that this training includes the Emergency Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to manage ill travelers as well as prevent and control infections. The National and WHO COVID-19 response guidelines should be covered in detail and each official should pass a test on the contents as a condition to access the work sites.
- Provide Health Information to Travelers and Improve Hygiene Infrastructure
Health information should be available in a number of languages, depending on the most common countries of origin of migrants. Hygiene Infrastructure includes: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Masks (N95), gloves, hand sanitizer, Paper scanners (for travel sheets at border crossings), and Patient beds/sheets. It is important to strengthen hygiene standards in response to COVID19.
- Ensure the supply of infrastructure and equipment at Points of Entry
Supplying the necessary equipment available to Immigration and Border personnel is important for reducing the risks of contagion. This includes:
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
- Supplies for screening, including Infrared (IR) contactless thermometers and thermal scanners.
- A Rapid Assessment Questionnaire to properly assess and vet passengers.
- Transparent barriers
- Monitor the placement of infrastructure and equipment
Scanners and barriers should be placed to allow for distance between officials and travelers, as well as between individuals in queues. The evaluation of Secondary Inspection spaces is also key to ensure safety of the officials, and that all information (health and legal) is available to passengers subject to secondary inspection. Fingerprint and document scanners should be relocated on passenger side of inspection barriers to avoid contact between travelers and officials.
- Implement measures to support unwell travelers
Immigration and Border personnel at Points of Entry must be prepared for every probable situation, including the possibility of the arrival of unwell passengers. Two key strategies can support this. Firstly, the construction of temporary isolation facilities or support facilities (prefabricated buildings). Secondly, support for ambulance or fitted van services between border post and nearest Public health Unit (PHU) or district hospital.
Whilst we are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the global spread of COVID19, there are concrete steps that can be taken to ensure the safety of migrants and staff at borders and points of entry.
Note: These recommendations are under constant review and analysis and are subject to change with little notice. It is important to verify that you are aware of the latest version on the control of COVID-19. You can find the complete document here.