Placing life at the centre from migrant care networks
We still do not know much about the COVID19 pandemic or its resulting socio-economic and political consequences. What is clear is that it will no longer be a temporary inconvenience to become a deep fracture in our societies. The scenario that will remain once everything is over will become what is already called the ‘new normal’, a normality in which pre-pandemic inequalities will be even more entrenched in societies. Either from more or less optimistic perspectives, vulnerable groups face a clearer risk of socio-economic exclusion resulting from more precariousness and temporary work, difficulties in accessing housing, gender inequalities, armed conflicts or the displacement of refugees and migrants. The latter, for instance, are in a state of social, political and legal deprivation that further accentuates the risk of falling into situations of high vulnerability. We observe how states and governments have activated all state instruments through various social and economic shock measures, but what happens when vulnerabilities are located where the law does not reach? What is the situation of migrants who are still in an irregular administrative situation? Who guarantees their protection?
According to a recent report by the International Organization for Migration , migrants in highly vulnerable situations are more likely to contract the virus, fail to receive the necessary care, suffer severe psychosocial effects, income insecurity and precariousness. Furthermore, in an environment of booming xenophobia and racism, the structural violence facing the migrant community is exponential. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a series of recommendations  that include guaranteeing health services, goods and services, the right to minimum working conditions as well as social protection, the right to guarantee education, regulation of migrant detention centres or measures against xenophobia.
Debates on the models of protection for migrants take various forms, but what is clear is that the reduction of vulnerabilities of the migrant population must be articulated through an administrative regularization. Either from more universalist or utilitarian perspectives, European governments have initiated measures to address these needs. Last March, Portugal began regularization processes for all migrants in an irregular administrative situation to ensure access to public subsidies, as well as health services; setting a precedent based on universal human rights as a starting point. Italy has followed in the footsteps of the neighbouring country but, instead, it has endorsed a partial regularization of the migrant population in an irregular situation linked to the labour market and the essential sectors of the primary sectors of the economy, and thus proposing a more utilitarian approach. In Spain, more general measures have not yet been taken to regularize migrants – beyond timid measures such as Decree-Law 13/2020 on agricultural employment. In fact, the regularization processes have been paralyzed, which poses even more obstacles to socio-economic precariousness.
Facing these vulnerabilities, civil society organizations and self-organized migrant associations have launched the #RegularizaciónYA campaign , which through a manifesto they urgently advocate a permanent and unconditional regularization in the face of a health emergency. With more than a thousand signatures across the state, the campaign has managed to occupy a space on the public agenda and significant media coverage. In addition, substantial care networks have been organized, such as the ‘Red de Cuidados Antirracistas‘ (Network of Antiracist Cares) which has been responsible for managing the distribution and delivery of food and coordinating small initiatives throughout the State or the Sindicat de Manters de Barcelona (Union of Street Vendors of Barcelona) who dedicated its workshop to producing gowns and masks, as well as their distribution.
Therefore, growing examples of care networks can be identified that articulate and build important resilience within communities , also and especially from the migrant community. However, it is essential to understand that resilience as such is not just a response to make up for the shortcomings of the public sector, but it is indeed a force for social and political impulse, as well as building alliances, projects and normative frameworks. These initiatives highlight that migrant care networks are also part of a necessary paradigm shift, that is, placing life at the centre.
* This post is originally published on IGOP‘s website for the #ReflexionsCovid19 series, available versions in Catalan and Spanish.
 The movement in Italy is called: Siamo qui-Sanatoria Subito! ((https://www.facebook.com/siamoquisanatoriasubito/)
 As it has been mapped by the project ‘Solivid’ https://www.solivid.org