Dear IRR News subscriber,
The consequences of Covid-19 are not indiscriminate. In addition to doctors and nurses, low paid members of the workforce – bus drivers, care-home workers, hospital staff, retail and delivery workers– are on the frontlines and are more likely to catch the disease as they are more exposed. The global pandemic, as Liz Fekete argues, lays bare global fault lines of race, class and indigeneity which render some communities across the world infinitely more vulnerable to infection than others, as well as ensure vastly differentiated race and class-based policing of lockdown measures in the seventy countries declaring a state of emergency to date. These fault lines raise, for Fekete, the question: is the war on Covid-19 morphing into a war on the poor?
A look at our second special Coronavirus Roundup provides disturbing evidence in support of this argument. Marginalised communities in Europe, from Roma living on landfill sites or contaminated industrial wastelands with no hygiene facilities in central and eastern Europe, to homeless refugees in Paris, Brussels, Calais and Greece are exposed to the greatest risk, and bear the brunt of policing measures. In the UK workforce, it is disproportionately BAME workers – in the NHS, in care homes, in public transport – who are exposed to the greatest risk and provided with the least protection, even as they are applauded – as the critical care statistics and the fatalities show. And asylum seekers are still sharing rooms in overcrowded and insanitary hostels, as John Grayson shows in the latest in his series of articles lifting the lid on conditions in privately-contracted asylum housing.
The other side of the coin is solidarity, and Anya Edmond-Pettitt describes how in France, the Gilets Noirs undocumented migrant workers have created a ‘solidarity pot’ to extend support for a hotel cleaners’ strike and increase awareness of the struggles of undocumented workers.
In our regular calendar of racism and resistance, we report on the Greek coastguard apparently taking advantage of the fact that the eyes of the world are elsewhere to carry out numerous illegal pushbacks of migrants to Turkey, while in Germany, the growth of the far Right has been fed by the laxity of policing and the very small number of perpetrators of attacks on asylum hostels who were ever convicted.
IRR News Team