Migrants around the world are facing new barriers to humanitarian aid and public services as some governments have criminalized or sought to limit efforts to help refugees, sometimes in a bid to deter migration—and often in violation of human rights, according to (pdf) a new report by the International Red Cross.
The “new walled order,” as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) calls intentionally limited access to basic services, is endangering lives and risks setting back humanitarian advances by a century.
“All people, regardless of immigration status, should have access to basic services and humanitarian assistance,” Francesco Rocca, president of IFRC, told The Guardian. “There is no need to mistreat people to have proper border control. Preventing access to adequate food, basic healthcare, and legal advice about their rights is completely unacceptable.”
In recent years, NGOs have seen increased opposition to their search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, through which hundreds of migrants’ lives have been saved, as “toxic narratives” accusing the groups of colluding with human smugglers have taken hold. Last year, the Italian government established a Code of Conduct limiting NGOs’ activity in Libyan waters.
“There is no need to mistreat people to have proper border control. Preventing access to adequate food, basic healthcare and legal advice about their rights is completely unacceptable.”
—Francesco Rocca, International Red Cross
The mayor of Calais, France essentially made food distribution by aid groups at the site of a former migrant camp there illegal when he banned “repeated, prolonged gatherings—making it impossible for the camp to be re-established.
The fear of arrest has also kept many migrants from accessing healthcare, with “dire consequences” especially felt by children and the elderly.
“In some countries, immigration officers are posted at hospitals to identify and arrest those with papers, whilst other governments also oblige collection and sharing of details of undocumented migrants seeking treatment in public hospitals,” read the report.
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