“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.
“The world’s most vulnerable are often the last in line for support. The international community and States must therefore work closely together to inform, help and protect them. That includes communicating with them in their own languages where possible to effectively transmit vital public health information and care, as well as enforcing measures for their protection against physical abuse and hate speech.
“The coronavirus outbreak endangers the health of all of us, with no distinction as to language, religion or ethnicity. But some are more vulnerable than others. All of us can take steps to resist this rise in discriminatory and hate speech against Asian and other minorities in social media, including by joining our voices in messages of support with the hashtags #IAmNotAVirus or #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus.”
“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,” the Special Rapporteur concluded.