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It is becoming clear that many of the most devastating consequences of COVID-19 will be in developing countries. In areas with densely populated slums, weak public health systems, and poor sanitation, the type of preventive measures adopted by wealthier countries will be extremely challenging to implement. Among those likely to be seriously affected are refugees, 85% of whom live in low- and middle-income countries. In refugee camps, in particular, self-isolation and social distancing will be nearly impossible to implement. In camps across Africa and the Middle East, suspected COVID-19 cases are already growing.

Brussels has announced a new action plan to help migrants integrate better into European society. The European Commission (EC) says that around 34 million people living in the EU were born outside the bloc and that everyone has the right to "realise their full potential". "Inclusion is the embodiment of the European way of life," said Margaritis Schinas, the EC's VicePresident for Promoting our European Way of Life.

With Swiss voters set to decide on a contentious “burka ban” on March 7, Anila Noor and Maria Khoshy explain why they – as Muslim feminists and refugees – oppose the idea.

We are feminists, women’s rights activists, and leaders in our communities. We are also Muslims. One of us is a recent refugee from Pakistan to the Netherlands. The other fled to Switzerland from Afghanistan when she was thirteen years old.

 

When refugees — I am among their number — are included in events and conferences in Brussels, or in Geneva or New York, it is usually so we can tell our miserable stories. Policymakers like to hear accounts of a hard journey on a refugee boat. They are less interested in listening to our ideas. At some gatherings, migrants are invited to cook authentic refugee food; we’re meant to be charmed by this display of inclusivity but this is as far as promises we hear about inclusion are allowed to go. Tokenism like this needs to stop. Migrant and refugee organizations represent lived experience which is at least as valuable as a policy makers’ technical qualifications.

On International Migrants Day (18 December), Anila Noor and Roger Casale reflect on how migration can be seen in a long-term perspective as part of the narrative of what Europe is today, and can become in the future.

We have the historian Ferdinand Braudel to thank for the expression “la longue durée”. Braudel’s approach focuses on long-term, structural changes in society, rather than the short-term focus of the chronicler or the journalist.

Why do some conferences on refugee integration not feature any refugee speakers? On the International Women’s DayExternal link, two women with different perspectives explain the challenges of making female refugees seen and heard in the integration process.

Alexandra Dufresne and Anila Noor, swissinfo.ch

From #MeTooExternal link to Women’s MarchesExternal link to strikes protesting against femicideExternal link, women around the world are speaking out. Women in Switzerland can feel proud of the historic Switzerland-wide women’s strike last June and a large number of women they helped bring to Swiss ParliamentExternal link last autumn.

Migrants and refugees in Europe are too often excluded from participating in decisions that shape their lives, a group of migrant advocates says. The European Migrant Advisory Board set out to change that by asking hundreds of migrants for their views and recommendations on how policies should be shaped.

"Refugees and migrants get fed up when they are not taken seriously," says Anila Noor. She's speaking from experience. Born in Pakistan and now based in the Netherlands, Noor knows only too well what it's like to be included in events and conferences with other migrants only "so we can tell our miserable stories." "Policymakers like to hear accounts of a hard journey on a refugee boat," she says. "They are less interested in listening to our ideas."

Mustafa Alio, Shaza Alrihawi, James Milner, Anila Noor, Najeeba Wazefadost and Pascal Zigashane

The speed with which COVID-19 has spread around the globe has been as extraordinary as the impact it has had on communities. This includes refugee communities, but in very particular ways. From refugees in remote and isolated camps to refugees living in precarious conditions in urban settings to all whose movement has been blocked by the closing of borders and increased state controls, scores of refugees have been significantly affected both by the arrival of the virus and by state policies implemented in response. 

Shaza Al Rihawi, Founding member of the Network for Refugee Voices (NRV), member of the Advisory Board of New Women Connectors and Research Assistant at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LIfBi)

EU integration policies towards migrants and refugees allow for some interpretive leeway among member states, but the challenges posed are constant, especially for women. As a female Syrian refugee living in Germany, I can personally attest to this. In my own case, I was accepted as a refugee in Germany only after a difficult 2.5-year journey from Syria to Sweden to Germany, and professional ‘integration’ has been difficult despite having a postgraduate degree from a major American university and a UNHCR position in Syria for 8 years (assisting female refugees and those affected by sexual and gender-based violence).

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The network compromises of refugee-led groups in six regions, North America, South America, Europe, Africa, MENA and the Asia Pacific.

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