Once borders are unsealed, a massive amount of people will set out for the wealthiest nations, fleeing Covid-related poverty, the Red Cross chief said. Migrants will also be driven by the search for a working vaccine.
Jagan Chapagain, the head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), made the grim prediction in a candid comment to AFP this Thursday.
Lockdowns and border closures enforced in most parts of the world are already driving people beyond the edge of poverty. Desperation forces them to choose between exposure to Covid-19 and the risk of going hungry, Chapagain explained.
What we hear is that many people who are losing livelihoods, once the borders start opening, will feel compelled to move.
It should not be a surprise if “a massive impact on migration” occurs in the years or even months to come.
However, the potential migration crisis could be averted or eased if these grievances are tackled before migrants leave their home countries, the IFRC chief said, offering one bold economic argument to back up his point.
“The cost of supporting the migrants, during the transit and of course when they reach the country of destination, is much more than supporting people in their livelihoods, education, health needs in their own country,” he said.
European leaders made similar arguments in the wake of the major migrant influx that hit the continent in 2015 and 2016. Germany, the prime destination for asylum seekers, pledged millions for reconstruction programs across the Middle East and North Africa.
Another driving factor beyond the looming migration wave is also directly related to the pandemic, which has infected over 15.5 million and killed more than 633,000 people worldwide.
Potential migrants could feel that their chances of survival are better “on the other side of the sea,” Chapagain said without indicating any particular destination. People will base their decision to move on “the availability of [Covid-19] vaccines.”
“If people see that the vaccine is say, for example, available in Europe but not in Africa, what happens?”
He also took a swipe at countries expected to keep reserves of promising vaccines for themselves first.
“The virus crosses the border, so it is pretty short-sighted to think that I vaccinate my people but leave everybody else without vaccination, and we will still be safe.”