Rohingya refugees walk along the road in the evening at Balukhali camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

This year’s Peoples Under Threat index underscores how minority and indigenous communities faced more violence and health risk during the times of Coronavirus.

News18.com
Last Updated: June 25, 2020, 11:11 AM IST

The coronavirus crisis has worsened pre-existing conflicts and mass violence thereby further increasing the risk for minority groups, according to new data collected by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights.

A map by Peoples Under Threat shows that while on one hand, numerous indigenous people are systematically exposed more to the illness, on the other hand, they might be made scapegoats in conspiracy theories, thus increasing the risk of bias and violence. Also, most minority groups are finding it hard to access health care services, either due to their remote locations or due to discrimination.

Earlier reports have shown that in the UK, minorities and ethnic groups have been the most vulnerable during the coronavirus crisis. Analysis of Covid-19 cases and deaths in England and Wales has revealed that black men and women are more prone to the disease. Similarly, a study on coronavirus trends in the UK has shown that those with a South Asian background, especially Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian heritage, are more likely to die from coronavirus after being hospitalised.

Another report from Europe suggested that there was a disturbing pattern of racial discrimination observed during coronavirus policing. Amnesty International said in a report that cops who were enforcing lockdown restrictions during the health emergency had disproportionately targeted minority and ethnic groups and subjected them to unnecessary violence on grounds of race.

READ: South Asians are More Likely to Die of Coronavirus in a UK Hospital, This is Why

READ: Coronavirus Detected in Bangladesh Camp Home to More than 1 Million Rohingya Refugees

The index uses authoritative indicators to understand which countries would be more vulnerable to mass violence against minority groups and this year, Syria tops the list followed by Somalia, South Sudan and other countries.

“Coronavirus has made all people feel under threat, but for minorities and indigenous peoples living under threat is neither “unprecedented” nor the “new normal”, but merely an extension of daily vulnerabilities, augmented by the virus”, says Joshua Castellino, MRG’s Executive Director. “Communities affected by violence and conflict are exposed to daily hardships, but as the virus hits, these will be exacerbated, calling for urgent attention to the notion of human security and ensuring it is a right for all,” he further added.

According to MRG, the factors that cause conflicts between these groups are already present – socio-economic inequalities, bad governance, climate change and the constant competition for resources that are already scarce.

In the absence of political stability and good governance, most minority groups are left even more vulnerable during the Covid-19 crisis. It adds to the already precarious conditions of these groups who in the past have gone through discrimination, violence and even mass migration. Furthermore, such conflicts limit access to healthcare which leaves these groups in the lurch.

“International leaders are fond of saying that we’re in this together, but in reality both governments and armed opposition groups in the world’s conflict zones are weaponizing the pandemic to gain a short-term advantage, seeking to deny medical or sanitary supplies to their enemies or even targeting hospitals and clinics for attack”, said Mark Lattimer, Executive Director of the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights.

Thousands of people, who have been displaced by conflicts are now living in refugee camps, like the one in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, or the ones near Syria and Yemen. Isolated due to lockdown measures, these people are more at risk of contracting the virus and do not even have proper medical supplies to aid them.


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