Since the COVID-19 outbreak, fear and anxiety for contamination have led to acts of stigmatization and discrimination against people whose ethnicity, language or country were associated to the virus, in particular populations of Asian descent. At the same time, an increasing number of countries have imposed lockdowns and declared the state of emergency in order to restrict people’s movement and to slow the spread of the pandemic. Although these measures affect the daily and personal lives of many, their impact is heavier on vulnerable groups, such as refugees and migrants.
In order to draw attention on the intersectionality of racism and the consequences of the pandemic on different segments of the population, the European Coalition of Cities Against Racism – ECCAR has issued a declaration calling decision makers for an inclusive fight against COVID-19 that takes into consideration both the social and racial inequalities of our societies.
The virus itself does not draw differences between race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or class. But it reinforces and deepens the inequalities already existing in our societies. […] We call on decision makers to enact policies protecting from the virus and its many economic and social effects. […] It is […] of utmost importance to counter and condemn any racist narratives, conspiracy theories and attacks that have sprung up in the wake of the pandemic. […] Let us be aware of our differences and fight racism - even and especially in times of crisis. #LeaveNoOneBehind
Measures adopted to contrast its spread might disproportionally affect migrants and refugees’ health, education and economy. For instance, information on the virus and health services are less accessible to refugees and migrants due to language barriers and uneven distribution of health care.
The homeless and asylum seekers in refugee camps on European borders are unable to go into lockdown and adopt efficient social distancing measures imposed by governments. This makes them more exposed to the virus. Home schooling or smart working are not an option for those who do not have a computer and an internet connection at home. The number of migrants working in the service sector will not earn any income until restrictive measures to halt the pandemic will be lifted.
Now is the time to extend the solidarity which many citizens have shown in this time of crisis, and which has been a beacon of hope to many, to those who need it most.
- Fostering Rights, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination
- UNESCO's Response to COVID-19
- COVID-19 - Protecting human health and dignity, respecting universal values
ECCAR is a network of more than 130 cities committed to sharing experiences in order to improve their policies to fight racism and all forms of discrimination. The network aims to contribute to the protection and promotion of human rights, respect for diversity in Europe, tolerance in all fields of culture and mutual understanding among peoples. In 2016, the members of ECCAR published the Toolkit for equality, which provides practical guidance to local authorities to effectively counteract racism and racial discrimination in cities.
The European Coalition of Cities Against Racism – ECCAR is part of UNESCO's International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities – ICCAR.
UNESCO's International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities – ICCAR, launched in 2004, is a city-level platform that undertakes a wide range of initiatives – from policymaking, capacity-building to awareness-raising activities. It advocates for global solidarity and collaboration to promote inclusive urban development free from all forms of discrimination.