COVID-19 fears should not be exploited to attack and exclude minorities

COVID-19 fears should not be exploited to attack and exclude minorities

The exploitation of COVID-19-related fears by groups and politicians to scapegoat minorities is leading to an alarming rise in verbal and physical abuses against Chinese and other minorities, with some even being denied access to health care and information about the pandemic, a UN rights expert said.

“COVID-19 is not just a health issue; it can also be a virus that exacerbates xenophobia, hate and exclusion,” said Fernand de Varennes, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues.

“Reports of Chinese and other Asians being physically attacked; of hate speech blaming minorities including Roma, Hispanics and others for the spread of the virus; and of politicians calling for migrants to be denied access to medical services, all show that States need to urgently emphasise that the human rights of everyone, in particular of the most vulnerable and marginalized, must be protected.”

The UN expert expressed concerns at numerous reports of xenophobia and exclusion of minorities in different parts of the world, ranging from calls to deny access to medical care to undocumented migrants to the absence of information about the pandemic in minority languages, including sign languages.

“Millions of individuals, particularly minorities and indigenous peoples, may not have access to what are arguably the most important public health messages in generations,” de Varennes said.

Combatting the epidemic requires tackling its darker sides. Firm actions by States and all of us to safeguard the human rights of the most vulnerable and marginalised, including minorities, indigenous communities and migrants, are urgent and necessary.

Original source: OHCHR
Published on 30 March 2020