The hard-won institution of asylum is under threat. States around the world have shut their borders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s now near impossible for most asylum seekers to travel in order to access protection and there is a real risk that this may become the new normal.
Facing the choice between indefinite detention or transfer to the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, refugees who were held on Manus Island and Nauru are still choosing freedom in America – even though some say it’s like landing in a civil war.
It has already become a cliché to say that the COVID-19 pandemic is having unprecedented impacts on many areas of our lives, including for refugees and migrants. But beyond the immediate human impacts, the coronavirus crisis is showing us who is – and is not – included when we respond as a community. For the non-citizens – including migrants, refugees and asylum seekers – the pandemic is revealing something deeper about the nature of modern state and its membership.
A new global advocacy initiative, #RefugeesRise, is bringing together refugee leaders from the Asia Pacific region to mobilise support for their communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Convened by the Asia Pacific Network of Refugees (APNOR), the initiative includes refugee leaders and activists from all walks of life, including doctors, nurses, teachers and aid workers.