Migrants in Europe push for full citizenship rights for workers, refugees

By Ian Dexter R. Marquez

ROME, Italy – An international alliance of migrant organisations is pressing European policymakers to grant full citizenship rights and regularization to all migrants, immigrants, refugees and displaced people.

In a petition, the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) – Europe said that allowing undocumented migrants to remain illegal are making them more vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Aside from their fear of losing their jobs due to the inevitable financial crisis brought about by the pandemic, they also fear of being accosted or arrested on the streets for not having the proper identification, stay and work permits if they need to go to work or buy their provisions,” IMA-Europe chairperson Zaria Galliano said.

Galliano said that undocumented migrants are overlooked when it comes to access to social and health services and protection because of their status, a situation remedied by regularization programs that provide them legal status in their destination countries.

Last March, Portugal granted temporary full citizenship rights to all migrants and asylum seekers to provide them full access to healthcare and financial aid during the pandemic.

Parliamentarians in France proposed a similar move for temporary regularization.

The programs have been pushed for humanitarian reasons, primarily to grant undocumented migrants full access to health care and other benefits.

According to a European Commission study, programs that have been carried out from 1996 to 2008 have resulted in over five million undocumented immigrants regularized.

Italy, for example, has regularized more than 1.2 million people since 1996.

Crisis, shortage

Galliano said that pandemic exposed the “flawed global health care systems of even the highly industrialized countries and their satellite states.”

“The inevitable collapse of financial markets and loss of jobs, personal incomes and life savings are causing untold anguish and panic around the world,” Galliano said.

There is an ongoing shortage of health workers in countries like Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom as more are falling victims to the virus.

In Spain, nearly 14 percent of confirmed cases are health workers.

At the epicenter of Italy’s outbreak, about 15 % of doctors and nurses have been infected.

These countries are brokering deals among themselves to bring in nurses and health workers, farm and other frontline workers.

“Although these workers are recruited to do the same type of work as local workers, they are paid less,” Galliano said.

She added that these migrant workers are also required to go through stringent requirements before they are given resident and citizenship rights.

IMA-Europe reported that in the UK, Ireland and Spain, undocumented migrant workers and asylum-seekers, including those with professional medical training, are already being recruited to work in care homes and hospitals in response to the outbreak.

Online petition

In a online petition, IMA-Europe called on people to “fight not only against the [corona]virus, but also against forced migration, capitalist exploitation, and imperialist plunder and aggression.”

“We call on policymakers to ensure that during this pandemic, vulnerable communities of migrants, refugees and displaced people are protected and afforded social and welfare assistance in recognition of their sacrifices and contribution towards alleviating the current global health crisis,” the petition stated.

Apart from pushing for the regularization and full citizenship rights for all migrants in the frontlines, IMA-Europe called for equal access to health care, social and welfare aid.

The group also clamored for the right to family reunification; universal right to public health for all, not for private profit; the bailout of workers, not multinational corporations; and the ratification of the International Labor Organization Domestic Workers Convention 189, an international agreement for the protection of domestic workers. #