Many thousands of migrants have been trapped by the coronavirus pandemic, unable to move due to border blocks and closings around the world, the United Nations said on Thursday.
The UN International Organization for Migration said that in Southeast Asia, East Africa and Latin America, many were trying to return to their countries of origin, but were unable to do so.
The immigrant camps were "very likely" to spread the disease, IOM Director General Antonio Vitorino told reporters in an online interview.
"There are thousands of migrants stranded around the world," he said.
"Many migrants who were on the move, some of them wanted to return to their country of origin, precisely because of the pandemic," he said, adding that others had been "stuck" on their migratory routes.
"They are blocked in border areas in very difficult conditions, without access to minimal care, especially health checks," he said.
"This is a source of enormous concern."
Vitorino said the IOM is asking governments to allow aid workers to access large groups gathered near the borders.
– Asking for the impossible –
The former Portuguese Defense Minister said that the overcrowded conditions among migrants trapped at the borders are so bad that “social distance is unthinkable and access to water and sanitation is a major challenge.
"We cannot ask people to do what is impossible," he said.
"If the disease spreads in the fields, it will have a big impact."
IOM administers about 1,100 camps worldwide and helped about 2.4 million displaced people in 2019.
About 220 cases of COVID-19 disease have been reported in immigrant camps administered by IOM in mainland Greece and treated in the Greek health system.
Vitorino said he was particularly concerned about what would happen if the virus occurred in Cox & # 39; s Bazaar, Bangladesh, where more than a million Rohingya refugees fled to neighboring Burma.
– Med crossings down –
He said the crisis had caused a decrease in attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea between Africa and Europe.
But the restrictions on the blockade created only "an accumulation of people waiting" – stranded migrants who, once restrictions on movement begin to increase, will move to Europe again.
Vitorino said the criminal networks of smugglers and traffickers were "ready to start working immediately" after the crisis disappeared.
IOM was also concerned about migrants being held in detention and those in “extremely prone” urban slums, mainly in South America.
Vitorino called for migrants to be able to access national health systems, regardless of immigration status, citing Singapore, where a "successful fight" against the disease has been hampered by migrants not being included in screening programs.
He also said that migrants need to be "fully included" in the economic recovery plans, citing World Bank figures predicting sharp drops in remittances to Africa this year.