What has been done to help migrants during COVID-19?

What has been done to help migrants during COVID-19?

The current outbreak of COVID-19 is primarily a health issue. However, it is also having an unprecedented impact on mobility, both in border and migration management, and on the situation of all people on the move. Past epidemics, such as Ebola, have provided experience and knowledge on how to address the crisis. However, to address a situation of such global magnitude that we are currently facing requires coordination among all actors, the close monitoring of medical developments, and an element of creativity.

During the COVID-19 health crisis, migrants have been affected in different ways, especially those with irregular migration status, or those belonging to more vulnerable groups such as women and LGBTIQ+ population, among others.

One issue, among many, that the migrant population has had to face during the pandemic is the economic impact, as there is a particularly high percentage of migrants in occupations exposed to job losses as a result of the COVID-19. For this reason, international remittances are projected to fall, which can often make-up 60% of a family’s income in the countries of origin.

Moreover, mobility restrictions applied both within countries and across borders, while necessary in the current context, have left many migrants stranded, more exposed to trafficking and even unable to access applications for asylum.

Other specific challenges faced by the migrant population during the pandemic include lack of access to basic services, such as health, as well as inability to practice specific pandemic prevention behaviours, such as physical distancing in shelters. In addition, misinformation about the causes and characteristics of the pandemic has led to xenophobic incidents against migrants, who have often been and continue to be used as scapegoats. The detailed version of these and other challenges can be consulted at this link.


Responding to the needs of migrants

International organizations, NGOs and states have been working for the protection and assistance of migrant populations. As the United Nations specialized agency for migration, the IOM's strategic response has focused on supporting the most vulnerable migrants and developing operational capacities to address the mobility dimensions of this pandemic. In the Central American, North American and Caribbean region, these actions include:

  • Information for the migrant population: Various IOM Missions are disseminating information that contributes to the prevention of COVID-19 among the migrant population, translated into the languages of the migrant population, and in accordance with the guidelines of the respective national governments and in coordination with PAHO/WHO.
  • Renovation of shelters: Food, personal hygiene kits, and cleaning supplies, and furniture (chairs, tables, fans, etc.) have been delivered. The abilities of these shelters to isolate suspected cases of COVID-19 have been created or strengthened.
  • Direct assistance to migrants: Direct assistance has been provided to migrants who are not housed in shelters. This assistance has included the provision of items, such as portable cookers, personal and household hygiene kits, as well as cash-based interventions.
  • Assisted Voluntary Returns: Some countries closed their border to migrants during the crisis. Upon the re-establishment of Assisted Voluntary Returns, the IOM facilitated Assisted Voluntary Returns from Mexico to Honduras and El Salvador, and from Haiti to the Dominican Republic.
  • Other notable actions have included the intervention to convert border posts into safe entry points in Haiti, the safe transportation of returned migrants to their homes in Honduras, and the construction of a filter hotel in Mexico to allow transiting migrants a safe and secure space to quarantine in before accessing regular shelters.


The IOM emphasizes the need for inclusive approaches to migrants in the response to COVID-19, as well as the need to address the particular needs and vulnerabilities of this population regardless of their migration status, and in the spirit of universal health coverage. The fight against the pandemic cannot be won without including the migrant population.

How will COVID-19 affect the achievement of the goals of the 2030 Agenda?

How will COVID-19 affect the achievement of the goals of the 2030 Agenda?
Categoria: Migration Governance
Autor: Laura Thompson


There is no doubt that the current pandemic has a broad humanitarian, social and economic impact in the short, medium and long term, which in turn may affect or delay the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at different levels and in various ways.

The most evident impact, obviously, is on Goal 3, which seeks to guarantee a healthy life and promote well-being. The pandemic has put enormous pressures on health systems not only in relation to the treatment and management of the virus, but also affecting the ability to care for patients who have other diseases and increasing the risk of complications in populations with compromised health states. The pandemic has given greater visibility to the importance of universal access to health systems regardless of people's migratory status. However, the pandemic will also have implications for other aspects of the 2030 Agenda.


Impacts beyond health

COVID-19 is also having a negative impact on the employment, economic and social situation of many households around the world, and on their ability to meet their needs, even the most basic ones. The economic crisis that the countries of the region are facing and the growing unemployment will be decisive in this regard, since apart from the pandemic, Latin America and the Caribbean reached an unemployment rate of 8.1% at the end of 2019, according to the International Labor Organization. And according to ECLAC projections, labor unemployment will rise to 11.5% in the same region, as a result of the contraction of economic activity by COVID-19.

Unemployment and the loss of purchasing power affect more severely migrant populations, since they are very often employed in the informal sector of the economy and have more precarious contractual working conditions, particularly women migrant workers. In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, informal work engages around 50% of the total number of people employed. The increase in unemployment will impact the scope of Goal 8 (on full and productive employment and decent work for all), but also Goal 1 (the fight against poverty), Goal 2 (the eradication of hunger, food security and better nutrition), Goal 5 (gender equality and empowerment of women and girls), and targets 5.2, 8.7 and 16.2, on trafficking and exploitation of people. ECLAC also emphasizes that Latin America and the Caribbean is already suffering a fall of -5.3% in GDP, the worst in its history.

Likewise, this pandemic could accentuate existing inequalities in societies, as well as the vulnerabilities of certain population groups, and consequently delay the achievement of Goal 10, which seeks to reduce inequalities between and within countries. In this context, migrants are one of those vulnerable groups that have been particularly affected by the pandemic and that are often left behind or forgotten in social protection and economic relaunch plans, or have limited access to them, either because of language barriers or because of their immigration status. All of this despite the enormous contribution that migrant workers make to the operation of essential basic services in many countries, as has become evident during this crisis.

Additionally, a decrease in the amount of international remittances is projected, which, according to the World Bank, would be reduced between 10% and 19.3% by 2020. Remittances are a fundamental component in the economy of some countries in the region, where they can amount to between 5% and 20% of the national Gross Domestic Product. A significant reduction in remittances would jeopardize the ability of many households in those countries to meet their most basic needs and their ability to invest in improving nutrition, education, and reducing child labor, among others, further emphasizing existing inequalities.

Finally, at the state level, due to the economic slowdown we are experiencing and urgent health needs, it is very likely that there will be a decrease in social spending or a reorientation of available resources, potentially at the expense of the more comprehensive vision contained in the Sustainable Development Goals, again affecting the scope of the transversal objectives of the 2030 Agenda.


Recovery and SDGs: the same path

But this should not lead us to pessimism and to think that we have lost the fight to achieve the SDGs. On the contrary, it is essential at this time to work together and forcefully to identify the additional difficulties that the current pandemic presents in achieving the 2030 Agenda. We must redouble our commitment and our efforts to ensure that the impact of the pandemic is incorporated into national plans and international assistance, as well as that the different realities and vulnerabilities of some specific groups are incorporated.

For this we must work from now on to ensure the universal attention of the health and education systems; in reducing remittance transfer costs (a topic included in Goal 10), as El Salvador is already doing, creating more resilient and inclusive cities in line with Goal 11 or strengthening forms of regular migration for migrant workers and decent working conditions (Goal 8).

The time is now: all organizations, governments and individuals have an important role in ensuring that the efforts for our Latin American region and the world to recover from the serious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are aligned with the 2030 Agenda and that we make sure we do not leave anyone behind.