Renewing existing capacities of displaced people in times of COVID_19

What is Techfugees Data Hub? 

In March 2020, with the support of volunteers from across the world and organisations, Techfugees launched its community-sourced Data Hub. A digital platform that brings together displaced persons, NGOs, members of civil society and innovators from all over the world, to map the impact of Covid-19 on displaced communities and source existing solutions to help mitigate it. The data is freely available here.

As the data collected by volunteers grew bigger and because it is important for us at Techfugees, to listen to displaced persons and take into consideration their experiences, we then launched  a series of online bi-monthly talks called Techfugees Live Sessions! These online free conferences provide regional and local updates on how different communities of displaced persons are coping with the situation and on what tech solutions are currently being used by them.

Inaugural live session: Asia Pacific & Malaysia 🇲🇾 

Last May 15th, Techfugees held its first inaugural live session focused on the situation faced by displaced people in Asia Pacific and Malaysia and coincided, by accident, with the official confirmation of , the first case of coronavirus in Kutupalong, the famous Rohingya Refugee camp, “home” of almost 1 million refugees. 

In a region where 9.4 million migrants are forced to move outside of their homes, the coronavirus pandemic not only exacerbated already existing challenges but created new ones. For instance, physical distancing is not even an option for refugees living in overcrowded camps and small cells where they cannot either access primary health nor implement barrier gestures. As Arash Bordbar, co-chair of the UNICEF Global Youth Advisory Council, mentioned during the session resettlement policies in Asia Pacific and Malaysia  shifted from a rights based to a needs based approach after the outbreak of Covid-19. Even if people could be tested, most of them are reluctant to do it because of their fear of arrest, deportation, or even worse. 

Indeed, these alarming facts have been confirmed by Hasnah Hussin, volunteer community mobilizer at Tenaganita. Hasnah – whose intervention was based on personal experience – has been working closely with Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, and could only deplorate the fact that “The impact of COVID-19 on Rohingya exacerbated the xenophobic attitudes towards refugees & migrants communities. Xenophobic is killing humanity faster than COVID-19 is.” Is all hope lost then? Luckily no!

If the portrait of the situation faced by displaced people in Asia Pacific and Malaysia was not so pretty, the live session was also the occasion to highlight some positive initiative. Hafiz Noor Shams co-founded the app, a remote  initiative that aggregates civil society efforts to help those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic, including migrant workers and refugees. This tech project connects donors and organizations with displaced communities, in order to propose solutions that will match people’s specific needs,  such as paying a rent or buying some food. 

This woke your curiosity up? Then watch our recording of the event here : 

Taking the road towards the USA 🇺🇸 & Mexico 🇲🇽 

Two weeks later, we zoomed in another region of the world, where the situation for displaced persons has gotten worse: the US-Mexican border Especially, Techfugees Data Hub second live session focused on the worrying trend of detention of migrants by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities and the rapidly growing number of Covid cases in these detention centers.  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA issued an order in May that prohibits the entry of asylum seekers at the Canadian and Mexican borders. While deportations have sped up, more and more people are forced to live in informal camps, where they are more exposed to COVID-19 as well as all sorts of violences. Have you ever heard of MPP, also known as Migrant Protection Protocol? It’s a programme through which the U.S. Government can decide to send back to Mexico any asylum seekers for the entire period of the immigration procedure. And according to Ana Mercedez Saiz, executive director of Sin Fronteras IAP, 9/10 migrants under the MPP programme experienced violence or kidnapping at the US and Mexican border. Additionally, displaced people in the region noticed an increase – since the pandemic – in already difficult and discouraging procedures to access legal documents, healthcare, jobs, and permanent shelter.  

Bonnie Arzuaga, co-founder of Doctors for Camp Closure (D4CC), spoke about how concerning is the situation for the 30,000 to 40,000 migrants currently detained during the pandemic. 800 cases and 4 deaths of COVID-19 have been confirmed so far. People with pre-existing medical conditions, who are more susceptible to be infected with coronavirus, are being deported or moved from facility to facility, often secretly. This makes it impossible for humanitarians – mainly doctors and lawyers –  to access accurate information, evaluate the situation and respond to the needs of displaced people. 

Again however, we refuse to conclude our sessions on a negative note. That is why this time, Marcela Valiente presented Connect2drs, a platform that aims to provide access to health for people in vulnerable situations, such as displaced persons and in particular refugees. In addition to offering telemedicine and online prescriptions on Blockchain, the project will soon enable the follow-up of treatments online and the possibility of buying and delivering medications at home. Medical and psychological support has never been more necessary in times of #COVID19 & #lockdowns.

This woke your curiosity up? Then watch our recording of the event here : 

This is the first blog post from a series about the bi-monthly Techfugees Live Sessions. Want to learn more about how displaced communities are affected by Covid-19 and coping with it? Join our next live sessions or volunteer to report and collect data. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *