More than 8,000 migrants receive assistance during the pandemic in Argentina
After the World Health Organization declared the pandemic on March 11, to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Argentine Government ordered a social, preventive and mandatory lockdown for the entire country starting on March 20.
This pause in economic activities during the nationwide lockdown impacted the employability and income of a significant number of Argentine citizens, as well as migrant, who constitute approximately 5% of the total population of the country, implies an estimate of 2.2 million people.
According to statistics from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the economically active sector among the migrant population amounts to 837,000 people, among which there are 71,000 unemployed migrants. Unregistered work reached 245,000 salaried migrants (47.2%), while 260,000 migrants (26.9%) are self-employed. These latter groups are the ones with the greatest vulnerability, together with the migrant population that recently arrived. For this group, it is especially difficult to access the monetary transfers social protection programmes established by the State, since there are minimum residency and national identity documentation requirements. Poverty affects 36% of migrants in Argentina. Girls and women represent 52% of those migrants living in poverty.
Faced with this reality, IOM in Argentina works together with national authorities, the United Nations system, civil society organizations, to incorporate migration issues into response plans to act on the humanitarian needs of migrants and to strengthen prevention, to manage COVID-19 at entry points, give support to public health systems and mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on the migrant population, are part of the collective approach.
Since April, more than 3,000 migrant families across different provinces benefitted by receiving food and hygiene kits to their homes.
“Together with a large network of partners, IOM reached more than 8,000 people in vulnerable situations through the distribution of food kits, hygiene kits, support for community kitchens and cash transfers that help to combat the situation and meet the extreme need of the migrant community in Argentina. All these response and emergency actions were focused on saving lives, on providing relief by preventing further infections and the spread of the virus." stated Gabriela Fernández, IOM Argentina Head of Office.
Since April a series of actions have been achieved, in alliance with the Argentine Red Cross, the Argentine Catholic Commission for Migration, the Jesuit Migrant Service, AMUMRA (Spanish acronym for “Association of migrant and refugee women”), ASOVN (American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses), Alliance for Venezuela, PROVEAR (the country team of Programme of Action Education in Human Rights) and 100% Diversity and Rights (“100% Diversidad y Derechos” in Spanish), and with the support of the European Union, the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the US State Department and the World Bank.
This alliance has allowed an exchange of information on the impact of the virus on the migrant population. There were 5,000 copies of informative resources on COVID-19 prevention produced in English, French and Spanish for migrants, in partnership with the Red Cross. There was also a delivery of two health modules, prevention and detection equipment (infrared thermometers, alcohol gel, chinstraps and protective gloves) to facilitate the application of sanitary protocols at the Tancredo Neves and Aguas Blancas-Bermejo border points, and the donation of 50 infrared thermometers and sanitary protection material to the Argentina's National Directorate of Migration (DNM) to strengthen detection of COVID cases at authorized border crossings.
In addition, during June, July and August, IOM Argentina, together with the SME Institute of Banco Ciudad de Buenos Aires, developed a training cycle called “Migrant Entrepreneurs”. This series of courses and virtual seminars aimed to accompany the migrant community in the face of the challenges posed by the pandemic caused by COVID-19.
“For the remainder of this year IOM, like the rest of the UN agencies, will focus on socio-economic recovery. For IOM, this translates into facilitating job creation and livelihood initiatives to aid the migrant population regain their autonomy, have access to stable jobs that allow them to lead a decent life,” said Gabriela Fernández.
This article was originally published to the ONU Argentina website on 26 August 2020.