We’re all in shock. Not that we easily admit it to ourselves or each other, but we are. We’re shocked about the existence of COVID19 and, every day, every time we hear another example of the shockingly bad management of COVID19 at Local, National and International levels by States and Agencies vested with the power to advance Public Health, our individually shocked selves get zapped again... and again.
What’s more, whether it arose from a single or multiple/continuous incidents, salt is pouring on the wounds of everyone, everywhere, who is living with any trauma that existed before Covid19.
Right now, who are the people who aren’t:
1. Able to access housing, food and the same sources of income from the State as everyone else?
2. Living in an environment where it is doable and sustainable to follow the Public Health directives: self-isolate as necessary, maintain social distancing, keep cleaning our environment and boosting our immunities, and thereby limit COVID19 viral transmission to the minimum?
In the UK… they are:
Residents, who may also be families that include essential or front line workers, living now in care homes, detention centres, hostels and houses for people seeking asylum, london busses, overcrowded and under-resourced social /private housing/ flats, prisons, psychiatric hospitals, and in the case of young UK people who are undocumented, other peoples’ tenancies.
They are UNABLE to do 1. or live in 2.
If the British State wasn’t previously aware that members of these population groups are living and dying, every day, with barriers between them and environments where it is possible to exercise and sustain vital public health behaviours, IT - as in the British State - became aware of these incontrovertible public health facts on 27th March 2020 when 10 Downing Street received our Open Letter calling for Status Now to secure access to healthcare housing and food for all.
Across Europe… they are:
Among others, our Refugee Sisters and Brothers, advocating for the end of the Direct Provision centres in Ireland and profoundly concerned about a very recent Death in Direct Provision: “is deeply traumatic… among people who escaped deeply traumatic experiences and have often experienced trauma on their migration journey.”
Trauma… that’s what’s being reported by Human Rights Watch too, on the outer edges of Europe where they describe Greek Island refugee camps, ill-prepared for COVID19: ‘Greek authorities have not done enough to address the acute overcrowding and lack of health care, access to adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene products to limit the spread of Covid-19 in camps for asylum seekers’. They call upon Greece’s government to ‘immediately take measures to… avert a public health crisis in environments where “Even handwashing and social distancing are impossible in these circumstances".'
In the Mediterranean Sea itself, the emergence of COVID19 is reported as being used as an excuse not to action the rescue of people in boats within Maltese and Italian Sea Action Rescue zones, leaving people to die of dehydration. Such fatal decisions make activists trying to save lives on the edges of Europe question why, for example, the International Office of Migration “seeks to criminalize so-called "irregular" migration instead of defending the rights of people on migration routes?" They conclude that COVID19 is being weaponised in defence of fortress Europe while the people on those migration routes continue to be UNABLE to do 1. or live in 2.
RAPAR didn’t know the Kanlungan Filipino Consortium before COVID19 but in practically no time our shared commitment to secure healthcare, housing and food for all has forged an indissoluble bond. Illustrating another example of how COVID19 is being weaponised, its coordinator Susan Cueva told us yesterday: "In the Philippines destitution and hunger are growing, especially in urban poor areas as the government’s lockdown measures mean thousands have lost their incomes with no effective measures of government support. President Duterte has ordered his military to shoot-to-kill protestors: on 21 April Winston Ragos, a retired resident in an urban poor area of Manila was shot dead on the spot by soldiers who claim he was violating the lockdown."
Similarly, messages to RAPAR members from family, friends and comrades around the world describe lives becoming evermore difficult in the shadow of COVID19. Alongside every documented worker in the UK whose pleas for PPE and competent testing mechanisms remain unanswered, and every migrant worker in, for example, Singapore who is now experiencing a new 'hard end' as COVID19 resurges there, our Members and our Networks - already in deep distress at the UK and Irish Governments’ blanket non-response, to date, to our call - are also experiencing layer-cake levels of insult: they are stacking on top of our injuries, that are on top of our compounded traumas, that are on top of our original traumas, and if it wasn’t for the knowledge that we will never give up, and therefore we will succeed, the State we’re in would defy description.
When we’re not pulling our hair out we’re scratching our heads at the managerial classes, as in those working to manage the pandemic on behalf of failing States. For example, there is a COVID19 policy google group fronted by the British Red Cross that composes the visible communication interface between the British Home Office and those organisations working in ‘migration’, particularly ‘asylum’ and invited to its network. This very morning the Refugee Council of Great Britain used this google group to tell workers in the sector that ‘the majority of the [Home Office] Statelessness Determination Team are now back up and running’…. The question is, where exactly are they running to?
Some musical salve?