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.


How do Venezuelans live in Costa Rica during the pandemic?

How do Venezuelans live in Costa Rica during the pandemic?
Categoria: Emergencies & Humanitarian Action
Autor: Guest Contributor

Currently, more than 5 million Venezuelans have left their country due to the complex socio-political context. Of those, at least 4 million are in Latin American and Caribbean countries, according to data collected from governments by the Regional Interagency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela (R4V).

According to estimates made by IOM Costa Rica, by the end of June,  29,850 Venezuelans approximately were in that Central American country. The socioeconomic situation, health, regularization mechanisms and other characteristics that affect integration in a host country were impacted by the pandemic.

To better understand this population, IOM Costa Rica implemented the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) to profile the Venezuelan population. This shows that the majority of the Venezuelans who took part in the survey were in the age range between 35 and 44 years; they were women (63%); they had university studies; and they were asylum seekers. In addition, most of them had been in the country between 3 months and a year and planned to stay permanently.

The DTM is a tool that can help policymakers to unravel mobility trends and outline current and future evidence-based scenarios so that the initiatives and strategy to assist both refugees and migrants, as well as host communities, can be planned with more information. These are some of the main findings of the study to understand the characteristics and needs of Venezuelans in the country:

  • Residence: 87% of those survey respondents indicated that they reside with another Venezuelan. Of these, 26% reside with a minor and 19% with an older adult. Most of them live in apartments.
     
  • Employment situation: At the time of the survey, most of the participating Venezuelans were unemployed (59%), and those who were working did so mainly in the informal sector. This is not a minor fact if we recall how it was said before that in general they have university studies.
     
  • Difficulties: Given the high unemployment rate, it is not surprising that one of the main difficulties indicated by the survey respondents was the lack of economic resources (78%), compared to other problems such as lack of documentation, lack of access to health, lack of food or water, among others.
     
  • Assistance: The surveyed population indicates that the main organizations that have assisted them are IOM (51%), UNHCR (44%), Alianza VenCR (31%), HIAS (23%), RET International (20%), the Jesuit Service (5%), among others.

 

The future of the mobility patterns of the Venezuelan population amid the pandemic

The regional profile of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean, recently published by IOM together with the Migration Policy Institute, indicates that, as a result of the new conditions brought about by the pandemic, Venezuelan refugees and migrants will be affected by food insecurity, limited access to health services and difficulty in finding work. On the other hand, there are different estimates of the number of Venezuelan returnees and there is no confirmed count of how many are moving through the region with the intention of returning to their country.

Although assistance to human mobility has many aspects, in the context of a pandemic, health care becomes a particularly important aspect both for the refugee and migrant population, as well as for their host communities, since ensuring all members of a society the necessary medical access has an impact that goes beyond the person being cared for. In some countries, working formally facilitates access to this type of services; but in the case of Venezuelans, as they are mostly in the informal sector (due in many cases to the lack of documentation or regular status), access to health is complicated despite it being a human right.

This publication also suggests that in parallel to the organization and efforts made by governments and civil society to address the problems that afflict refugees and migrants in the region in general, and the Venezuelan population in particular, it is necessary to have international support. This is important, among other aspects, to collect solid data to help formulate public policies, as well as to strengthen the positive aspects that migration can bring, for example, in its economic dimension.