What is the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTI migrants?

What is the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTI migrants?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) migrants may face intersecting discriminations: both as migrants as well as on the basis of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. It is important that measures are put in place to ensure that these populations have equal access to public health and safety services, and assistance to overcome the socio-economic impacts of the crisis. Here are some of the specific challenges that LGBTI migrants may have to overcome.

Difficulties in accessing healthcare services

In general, LGBTI people regularly face discrimination and stigma when accessing health services, starting with the criminalization of same-sex relationships in some countries and discrimination against trans people due to their gender identity. The existence of laws in some countries that criminalize same sex relationships or target trans people due to their gender identity exacerbates these situations. Some LGBTI people may avoid health services due to fear of arrest or violence. Some LGBTI migrants, particularly those with irregular status, may be less willing to access health care or provide information on their health status as they fear deportation, family separation or detention.

Finally, it is important to note that  for many LGBTI migrants from Central America and the Caribbean, returning to their countries of origin could mean facing a high risk of violence or discriminatory laws.

Stigmatization, discrimination, hate speech and attacks on the LGBTI community

During health crises, both LGBTI and migrant communities are likely to face stigma and discrimination as a result of being erroneously blamed for the pandemic. This doubles the vulnerability and risk of discrimination for LGBTI migrants. For example, in some countries  a measure was introduced that only allowed men and women to leave their homes on alternating days of the week and gave police the power to confirm a person’s gender based on their official documentation. This leaves transgender, intersex and non-binary migrants at risk of discrimination as they may not be able to change their gender on their identification, depending on the laws in their countries of origin.

Access to work and livelihood

Due to the various forms of social and economic discrimination faced by LGBTI migrants, they are more likely to work in the informal sector and lack access to paid sick leave or unemployment compensation. LGBTI migrants will not be eligible to apply for payments to reduce the negative socio-economic of the COVID-19 pandemic in countries where these policies only apply to nationals.

Vulnerability to violence and exploitation

Transgender and nonbinary migrants are particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to employment discrimination on the basis of their gender identity and/or nationality. Traffickers take advantage of this vulnerability and many actively seek out trans and nonbinary victims. Traffickers are also likely to exploit the uncertainty, mobility restrictions and increased internal displacement resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

What are some key actions that stakeholders can take?

States and other actors should consider the specific needs and vulnerabilities of LGBTI migrants and ensure their voices are heard when creating responses to the COVID-19 outbreak. Below are some recommendations:

  1. Understand that health is a universal right, which means that  LGBTI migrants should be able to access healthcare services, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or migration status and that they are not subjected to discrimination or fear negative consequences for seeking healthcare.
  2. Ensure that the LGBTI migrants are included in measures to reduce the socio-economic impact of the pandemic and that their specific vulnerabilities are addressed.
  3. Political leaders and other public figures should speak out against stigmatization and hate speech directed at both LGBTI persons and migrants during the pandemic.
  4. Shelters, support services and other measures to address gender-based violence and human trafficking during the COVID-19 pandemic should adopt an approach that is inclusive of LGBTI migrants.
  5. Border and law enforcement officials should be trained and instructed not to discriminate against LGBTI populations. Measures involving mobility restrictions should also provide protection for trans and non-binary individuals.

Addressing the negative impacts of COVID-19 on LGBTI migrants requires an intersectional approach and a strong commitment from key stakeholders to consider how new measures could have unintended consequences on this populations. For more information on the COVID-19 pandemic and the human rights on LGBTI individuals, consult this document from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.


Interviewing Rubén Sánchez, Director of 'Zanmi'

Interviewing Rubén Sánchez, Director of 'Zanmi'
Categoria: Communication & Migration
Autor: Laura Manzi

‘Zamni' (2018) is one of the films that participated in the 2020 edition of the Global Migration Film Festival. The short film, which was selected to be screened at regional level by the Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, narrates the experiences and daily lives of four Haitian migrants in Chile and their integration process in the South American country.

In this interview, the young director Rubén Sánchez, tells what objectives and motivations guided him towards the creation of the short film.

Why did you choose young Haitian migrants as the protagonists of your work? Is there something in their profile that makes them different from other migrant communities in Chile?

What struck us is that the Haitian population here in Chile is the one that finds it most difficult to integrate into society. One of the main reasons is that they speak another language, the Creole language, and that is an even bigger barrier considering that Chilean Spanish has many idioms and tends to be spoken very quickly. Another obstacle to integration is the racism and rejection of some sectors of society towards the Haitian population: whether because of ethnicity, nationality, language or other prejudices. This leads to more segregation and not integration.

In the short film, there are many scenes that portray different landscapes: the sea, the forest, the city. What is the role of nature in the integration process of migrants?

Climatic conditions and landscapes can be a challenge for integration. For example, Haiti is very flat, there are no mountains and the climate is tropical. Here in Chile, nature and microclimates are quite diverse (the north has higher temperatures, the south is more humid and rainy, while the central zone is a mixture of these).
Nature, however, has also a symbolic purpose in the documentary. The mountain range, which characterizes the Chilean landscape, is the great frontier that any person faces to reach Chile. This justifies the scene that opens and closes the film and represents one of the protagonists in the Embalse del Yeso, which is a place here in Santiago, in the middle of the mountain range. We wanted to film those scenes there as a more oneiric way of representing this enormous wall that is like a border to cross in order to reach Chile, and that at the same time symbolizes the great wall that is in the cultural shock that the Haitian population faces.

‘Life is a circle. A perfect circle of which we are not a part': the protagonists in the film have jobs, go to school, learn Spanish. Then, what are the elements that continue to prevent their integration into the host community, this 'circle' from which they are excluded?

The cultural shock is big. If the host society lives this 'fear of the unknown', the Haitian migrant population in turn reacts and this generates a fear of the community where they live. The lack of integration is made difficult by prejudice and because initiatives that value cultural richness are not promoted. I think this is what we lack as a society: to be more educated. If there is no good education, there will be no people who cannot integrate; we still need to be educated and 'humanized'. I feel that in some way we are also 'dehumanized'. This is what the documentary wants to capture: to reflect on the humanity that we need, the humanity that we need to integrate others, to show that we are all really the same, we are all human beings and we all have dreams.

How much is the director visible in his work? How come are you interested in the subject of migration?

The issue of Haitian migration was, for me, a personal concern, because I live in one of the cities in Chile with the largest Haitian population. I used to witness daily this rejection of the Haitian population in the eyes of the people, in comments that were exchanged by whispering in the bus when I went to the university. I was worried about that.
Also, before I enrolled in audiovisual communication, I studied social work, and had many courses on the migration issue and related social policies. I did a lot of research on Haitian migration, which allowed me to capture the central idea of the short film. During the shooting process, I had the opportunity to meet these young people (Haitian migrants), to live their culture, to taste their food. I was filled with a culture that I didn't know, I was filled with knowledge, with a new experience. I wish this documentary could reach more people, change who we are and cultivate our humanity.