Afropean Voices during Covid-19: Circumventing borders


Sani LadanSani Ladan is an intercultural mediator, student of International Relations in Andalusia, Spain, and vice president of the ELÍN Association, Ceuta, Spain, that welcomes and offers support and guidance to migrants.

Many world leaders used a war metaphor to define the scope of the health, economic and psychological crisis that the world was going through with the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to global calls for a strategy based on empathy and unity in the face of a common enemy, although the countries, depending on the continent to which they belonged, reacted differently, many times with the closing of borders and little solidarity strategies, which were soon translated into acts of pillage and (absurd) competition. In addition to the scenes of modern piracy to steal masks between countries on the airport runways, the United States’ departure from the WHO was added, the race to see which country would get the vaccine first to get the medal, and a hoarding of vaccines by developed countries to the detriment of the States of the Global South.

Although viruses do not understand borders or social stratifications, it seems that governments only understand the world from this perspective. In this sense, the pandemic and the responses to it have reflected, and sometimes increased, the impact of existing inequalities, especially with respect to new migrants, temporary workers and refugees. The pandemic, and the closure of borders, has worsened economic crises in poor countries, which has increased the number of migrants crossing the sea to reach Europe. In 2020, more than 16,000 migrants, the vast majority Africans, arrived in the Canary Islands by boat, where humanitarian aid has been deficient. In Andalusia, African seasonal workers have worked in the front row during the pandemic, even when the rest of the population was confined, to ensure the supply of food to the population, poorly paid, without having any social protection, living in shanty towns in subhuman conditions and no access to health care.

One of the great lessons of this crisis is that in the face of the disappointing global and national responses to a common vulnerability that, in real time, shows us how fragile and interdependent we are; the local and silent responses of communities, professional groups, and the most vulnerable and oppressed people, suffocated by layers of physical and social borders, who, without using words or rhetoric, have worked risking their lives.

This perspective is included in the upcoming Collateral Benefits Perspective Paper IV: Voices of the African Diaspora, a collaboration between Collateral Benefits , Fundación Manos Visibles and Afrøpean.

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