Forced Displacement, Human Dignity and Autonomy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Authors: Olimpia Valdivia Ramirez*,
Topics: Migration, Latin America, Health and Medical
Keywords: forced displacement, COVID-19, migrant shelters, health
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 22
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This presentation addresses the complexity of running a migrant shelter in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic where implementation of infection prevention and hygiene measures are necessary. There is a complex relationship between imposition, human dignity and autonomy in relation to individual’s own health care. Cultural and educational barriers within migrant populations pose challenges to implementing measures to control the virus from spreading. This presentation is based on PhD dissertation fieldwork that commenced September 2020 in La 72 Hogar Refugio para Personas Migrantes, a shelter located at Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico. The shelter has worked hand-in-hand with global health organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, to create a containment plan, including social distancing measures, resulting in considerable reduction of the shelter’s capacity in order to guarantee the population’s health. However, these control measures require restricting access, leaving people in need outside the facilities, in order to control the virus from spreading. COVID-19 does not stop people from migrating, they continue traveling and arriving at the shelter seeking help and relief. This creates a tense situation between the shelter managers who are torn between their humanitarian principles and their goal of providing dignified accommodation, but at the expense of sanitary measures. This presentation underscores the difficulty in managing health measures with people on the move, who have survival needs beyond health care, and many of whom do not believe in the existence of COVID-19.

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