A group of mayors representing cities all over the world have come together to call for migrants and refugees to be fully included in responses to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement published on July 23, the local leaders argue that refugees and migrants are on the front line of this global health crisis and face risks such as informal employment, overcrowded accommodation, and lack of access to health services.
They are calling on other city mayors as well as national and international governments to ensure this vulnerable group is not left behind as recovery plans are put in place.
The officials make up the board of the Mayors Migration Council — an initiative launched in 2018 to give mayors a forum to develop and share ways to better support their migrant and refugee residents.
“We are championing policies to make sure that language barriers, migration status, or where someone lives does not prevent their ability to access key services and get the support they need during recovery,” the statement says.
The 10 mayors (including the former mayor of Athens) who signed the statement represent a diverse range of global cities: Amman in Jordan; Bristol, UK; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Kampala, Uganda; Los Angeles, US; Milan, Italy; Montreal, Canada; São Paulo, Brazil; Zürich, Switzerland; and Athens in Greece.
As well as sharing their own policies on this issue, and what success they've seen so far, the mayors are calling on world leaders to commit to the following:
- Ensure safe, equitable access to services regardless of migration status.
- Empower migrants and refugees to be part of the solution to COVID-19, for example, through the regularisation of immigrant essential workers — meaning to legalise them if they are undocumented.
- Combat misinformation, racism, and xenophobia to strengthen community solidarity in all COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.
All the mayors point out that cities are well-placed to respond to and support marginalised people in their communities — in a way that often national bodies are not.
“In response to national relief plans that have excluded migrants (both domestic and international) and refugees, mayors have stepped up to ensure recovery efforts protect and empower all city residents,” the statement reads.
In the spirit of sharing knowledge, the mayors offered examples of some positive steps they have taken to support refugees and migrants.
Take Giuseppe Sala, the Mayor of Milan — a city in the epicentre of northern Italy’s outbreak — who said they deployed health and logistics teams to train social workers working in hostels housing unaccompanied migrant children. Those teams upheld sanitation rules and helped to closely monitor the residents’ health.
In Montreal, the Canadian city converted public transport buses into mobile clinics to increase the number of screenings for COVID-19. This worked especially well in neighborhoods that are home to a large number of refugees and asylum seekers, often far from places where they could access healthcare.
Similarly in Amman in Jordan, a city which houses thousands of refugees from neighbouring Syria, the mayor Yousef Shawarbeh said all residents had access to equal services regardless of status. Water and bread was distributed each day during lockdown to vulnerable households.
And Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol, said that during the UK’s lockdown he had noted how supportive and resilient the local community in Bristol had been. “We have found that our communities have the ability to rally and support each other to survive.”
He added: “Our community has the responsibility and a mandate to build back better, redesigning our city’s systems so they can withstand future crises."
You can join the movement by taking action with us here to help ensure that no one is left behind during this pandemic. You can also read more about how COVID-19 is impacting communities around the world, through our coverage here.