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COVID 19 could spark huge waves of migrants and refugees

People from poor countries may also seek to reach wealthier nations in order to access anti-COVID 19 vaccinations.

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Refugees in the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.

(African Stand) — The dire economic impact of the global coronavirus pandemic is likely to propel new waves of migrants and refugees towards the richer parts of the world, the head of the Red Cross warned.

People from poor countries may also seek to reach wealthier nations in order to access anti-COVID 19 vaccinations, particularly if rich countries try to buy up supplies if and when they become commercially available.

“We should not be surprised if there is a massive impact on migration in the coming months and years,” said Jagan Chapagain, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

National lockdowns and the collapse of businesses around the globe are likely to propel huge numbers of migrants, in addition to the vast flows that have been seen in recent years as a result of war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

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The crisis could propel more migrants and refugees across the Mediterranean to Europe

“What we hear is that many people who are losing livelihoods, once the borders start opening, will feel compelled to move,” he told Agence France Presse.

With more people on the move, there are likely to be numerous “tragedies along the way”, including more deaths at sea, human trafficking, and exploitation.

Rich countries need to take action to tackle poverty so as to prevent people from having to flee their home countries in the first place.

“The cost of supporting the migrants, during the transit and of course when they reach the country of destination, is much more than supporting people in their livelihoods, education, health needs in their own country,” said Mr. Chapagain, who is Nepalese.

The World Health Organisation is behind efforts to try to ensure that any coronavirus vaccine developed be deemed a “global public good”, to be made available in an equitable manner across the globe.

But the US and others are racing to secure stocks of promising vaccines and there are concerns that rich countries might gain access to the jabs first.

“If people see that the vaccine is said, for example, available in Europe but not in Africa, what happens? People want to go to a place where vaccines are available,” Mr. Chapagain said.

He criticised attempts by some countries to secure vaccines for their own people first.

“The virus crosses the border, so it is pretty short-sighted to think that I vaccinate my people but leave everybody else without vaccination, and we will still be safe,” he said. “It simply doesn’t make sense.”

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