Reported COVID-19 cases in Asia and the Pacific continue to increase, though at a relatively stable pace, with countries augmenting responses as well as maintaining stringent mobility restrictions. As of 3 May, over 333,500 cases and more than 15,272 deaths have been reported in the region.
Confirmed cases have been reported in 28 countries, territories and/or areas1. IOM missions in the region are working with governments and partners to ensure that migrants, whether in regular or irregular situations, as well as returnees and forcibly displaced persons are included in efforts to mitigate and combat the illness’s impact. There have been some concerning reports within the region of concentrated clusters of cases in several migrant settings, highlighting existing vulnerabilities including among migrant workers housed in dormitory accommodation in Singapore, in immigration detention settings in Thailand and among migrant and refugee communities in Malaysia.
These situations highlight the critical importance of ensuring active outreach and inclusion of migrants and refugees in all aspects of COVID-19 preparedness and response including prevention, education, testing and treatment; and mitigation efforts. There are reports of stigma and discrimination towards migrants at destination, transit and home locations upon return, due to fears around COVID-19 transmission which may lead to further exclusion from or unwillingness to access health services.
Some good examples of migrant friendly approaches taken by governments include the establishment of a migrant COVID-19 hotline by the Ministry of Public Health in Thailand supported by WHO and IOM as well as conducting Active Case Finding among migrant communities; and in Sri Lanka where the Ministry of Health with support from IOM is ensuring migrants and refuges are included in COVID-19 messaging and support services. There are also increasing serious concerns regarding stranded and vulnerable migrants abroad including within the region, as well as in other regions, and their ability to satisfy basic needs. Devising adequate responses for migrants, refugees, IDPs, returnees and other vulnerable groups remains the top priority for IOM.