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COVID-19 doesn't discriminate, nor should we

  • 06 April 2020
I don’t like sci-fi movies and even if I did, it would have been hard to come up with a plot remotely similar to what we are seeing now with the COVID-19 pandemic and the way it is affecting our lives and our world. Walking on the street far away from others. No touching, no sharing, no befriending, all so against human nature and certainly for a good reason.

Quarantine, self-isolation, social distancing have become the words of the moment. Some are rightly trying to see the positives in this challenge. They are finding opportunities to spend more time with the family and work from home.

That is, of course, if they actually have a home; if they are not relying on others for food or if they are not survivors of domestic violence.

The ability to work from home or social distance is a class issue. How do you work from home when you are a migrant worker in India relying on a daily wage in the informal economy and now forced to walk miles to get to your village or town in a country in complete lockdown? How do you practice social distancing in the slums of Lagos, the favelas of Rio or the shanty towns of Bogota, the city where I was born?

Here in Australia, it’s not much different for refugees, people seeking asylum and migrants in vulnerable situations. So many Australians are currently being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in one way or another. Many Australians or their loved ones have been affected by the virus, have underlying health conditions, are elderly or have lost their jobs or have been forced to close their businesses.

What we see at Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia’s Arrupe Place in Western Sydney from people seeking asylum and migrants in vulnerable situations is a story of exclusion exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

During the last few days, things have moved so rapidly. We have been adjusting our delivery models by the day to adapt to people’s needs in the COVID-19 era.


'The COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate. It affects different people regardless of their status. An effective COVID-19 response should not discriminate on the basis of immigration status.'  

So many of the people we serve are contacting us in desperate situations: loss of jobs, no income, threats from landlords, lack of money to buy basic medicine, domestic violence, lack of access to healthcare and hunger.