Focus On: Refugee Health Heroes

by Orson Gard

Around the world, refugee health workers are stepping up to fight COVID-19 - this cannot go unnoticed. Graphic by Jess Parker

The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked an outpouring of compassion across the world, with communities banding together to support each other on an unprecedented scale.

Refugees have also been playing their part, using their skills to help tackle the crisis wherever they are. By doing so, they are exposing a number of important issues that deserve closer attention including the fact that, in many countries, the rights of asylum seekers to work are restricted. This is being directly challenged as health services across the world, including in the UK, are reaching out to foreign-born health workers to help stop hospitals being overwhelmed. However, it has been highlighted that the inefficiency of the re-registration process for refugee doctors prevents individuals from contributing to their full capacity.

Secondly, as refugees step up to help fight the virus, they directly challenge the misconception that refugees are a burden to society. Indeed, at this time of crisis, governments and organisations across the world are loosening restrictions on employment for refugees, allowing them to exercise their right to work and make a meaningful contribution.

Take Samuel, for example. Born in Venezuela, he fled the violence and found refuge in Ecuador.

Samuel, in Ecuador © UNHCR/Jaime Giménez Sánchez de la Blanca

He is now contributing to the public health response in San Francisco, a remote village with few medical professionals, using his training as a doctor to stem the spread of COVID-19.

In the UK, people like Hadir are also playing their part. After escaping the war in Iraq, Hadir resettled in the UK. Using her background in scientific research, she now volunteers at an oncology unit in Stockport.

These are just two examples of the heroic work refugee health professionals are doing on the frontline every day. While we welcome the easing of restrictions and global efforts and initiatives to help refugee health workers use their skills, we must push for lasting change so they can continue to contribute once the crisis is over.

Hadir, at Stepping Hill Hospital © UNHCR/Laura Padoan

We must recognise the capacity of newcomers to contribute to our communities and challenge the misconceptions that falsely claim otherwise. To do this, it is essential we strip away unnecessary restrictions on employment and help newcomers fulfill their potential.

At COLOURS, we will not let refugee health heroes go unnoticed and, despite all of the sadness this crisis has brought, we hope it inspires lasting change.

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We're raising funds for Choose Love/Help Refugee's Emergency Coronavirus Appeal. We know money is short for many at the moment. However, if you do find yourself with some spare change, please consider giving at the link below.

Learn more about our campaign, 'Leave No One Behind' here:

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