Mattias De Backer, Université de Liège, Belgium
This contribution is based on the testimonies of about 25 frontline workers who, despite the dangers associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, have continued to support vulnerable groups including: undocumented migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, young people in special youth care, homeless people, and overall, people in poverty. This research is part of a European, HERA-funded research project on 'The everyday experiences of young refugees and asylum-seekers in public space'.
'Invisible people': the working and living conditions of undocumented immigrants in Jordan during the COVID-19 crisis
Cevdet Acu, University of Exeter, UK
While the coronavirus has spread indiscriminately across the world, the negative effects have been felt differently, as COVID-19 has amplified conditions for some of the most vulnerable groups which, in Jordan, are mainly undocumented immigrant workers. Workers can lose legal status when they leave a permitted job for one in an underground economy, or become irregular workers because their visas allow residence but not employment. Undocumented workers are not fully protected by the legal regulations and are frequently exploited by employers through wage theft, sexual harassment and unsafe working environments. Unfair treatment such as low pay, inhumane work hours and denied payment for working overtime are regular occurrences in their lives, but beyond this, undocumented workers must now grapple with fears of transmitting COVID-19 and the restrictions that have come with it.
Emmanuel Raju, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
I left my home, my people and my land,
Searching for a ray of hope, a light through the tunnel,
I fled poverty and marginalisation,
I fled, looking for hope! I made a bed in a ‘slum’ as they call,
I shared the shower with a million others, I shared my space with ten others,
Space? Yes, just a fifteen square metres and a loft with another few men,
Under the sheets of tin, we cooked, we ate and we worked,
Fires and floods? Who cared?
The virus came, they care! Not about me but that the virus might come into their home,
Told me to stay home, they called it social distancing, they get paid for that, I don’t!
And if we all stayed home in the slum, how do we distance?
Clean water, I never saw that before! How do I wash my hands for 20 seconds without water?
I don’t get to eat because I have to stay home,
What do I do? Walk home no matter the distance.
It was a few hundred kilometres I succeeded, no matter the heat,
I collapsed once, some water came, then some food,
Thank you Good Samaritan!
Then came the barricades, to stop me, the migrant!
Then came the sanitisers for the buses but they sprayed on me,
Then came the canes, the police’s parade of power asking why am I walking,
Because I cannot work from home, and if I don’t work, I don’t eat!
They closed the borders and the sight of my real ‘home’ gone,
Even if I had the virus, nobody cares because I have left the city,
No water, no soap, no distancing,
Unemployed, unpaid and starved,
The poverty, my darkest fear that I fled, I see it come again,
But I walk home, the long walk home!
Anjali Karol Mohan, India
'As in the photo of the daal packet, it is reassuring to see that there are civil society organisations that are promoting the message of equality especially during this time of crisis'.
Prior to COVID-19 taking centre stage as a global pandemic, a two-part seminar series called 'The "Southern Tilt" in the Urban Embedded Wisdom and Cultural Specificity as Pathways to Planning' was held in Colombia and India. The series sought to evolve planning approaches and methods to shape city futures in Latin America, Asia and Africa, geographies that promise to be the future of urbanisation. The main objective was to establish relevant and appropriate vocabularies, methods and processes to comprehend, steer and manage the emerging urban. Animated discussions on informality, migration, housing, land, displacement and conditions of displaceability had, in my opinion, made for a successful seminar. Six weeks later, however, while the discussions seem to be woefully inadequate in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, the objectives of the series could not have been more pertinent.
Dogus Simsek, University College London, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, UK
A few days ago, I received a WhatsApp message from an undocumented migrant living in Istanbul stating that, 'Our situation is getting worse. I lost my job because of coronavirus. I am stuck here with my child. I do not know how I will pay the rent, buy food for my child. I do not know what to do if we catch the virus. We cannot go to hospital. We are stuck here with very limited facilities. I am very worried about our lives. There is no one to help us. Many of us who do not have documents feel very desperate at the moment'. This is probably one of the worst experiences she has gone through since she migrated to Turkey from Ghana. Trying to understand this feeling of desperation without the social, political and cultural context is hard.
Megha Amrith, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Germany
Migrant domestic workers in Singapore have always faced multiple restrictions on their mobilities and rights: their stays are governed by the most restrictive of work permits which require them to live in employers’ homes. They have one day off per week (or in some cases, fortnight or month), and many suffer ongoing forms of exploitation and abuse behind the closed doors of their employers’ homes as labour legislation does not apply to domestic workers. Those who have been working abroad for a long time have found their own ways to negotiate the restrictions on their mobilities to find spaces of freedom, faith, friendship and belonging. These routines, however, have been overturned by the pandemic and trust that has been built over long periods of time has revealed itself to be deeply fragile as new anxieties, coupled with intensifications of existing anxieties, come to the fore.
Identities COVID-19 Blog Series
Explore expert commentaries curated by Identities on the dynamics between displaced migration and COVID-19.