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Managing the Refugee Crisis in the Era of the COVID-19 Pandemic

This essay seeks to demonstrate that there are both ethical and practical considerations for enabling refugees to manage the coronavirus disease (COVID-19 pandemic). Given that a majority of refugees live in highly congested environments, particularly urban areas, an outbreak would swiftly spread through their local communities. Our argument is twofold: (i) That a new approach is needed to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic –one that recognizes mounting challenges facing refugees and relies on international cooperation rather than the myopic rhetoric and sentiments of xenophobic right-wing politicians; (ii) That helping refugees to curb the spread of the current coronavirus cannot be divorced from social contexts, hence the necessity of improving employment, basic health services, and educational opportunities for refugees.

Managing the Refugee Crisis in the Era of the COVID-19
 

 

Introduction

 

The nearly 70 million refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and asylum seekers around the world are among the most vulnerable populations to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). Of these, around 10 million live in refugee camps and informal settlements, which have especially high population densities.1 Refugees who live outside camps are equally vulnerable. It is not unreasonable to assume that a deadly virus, such as COVID-19, can spread swiftly among refugees and cause many casualties. Most refugee camps are still relatively safe from COVID-19, but they are ill-prepared to cope with it.2

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