The pandemic coronavirus has increased the risk for the most vulnerable in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
Inequality and discrimination have existed for a number of people – including prisoners, refugees, migrants, and ethnic minorities, a human rights watchdog report released Wednesday. numbers – affected by the pandemic, according to a human rights watchdog report released Wednesday.
In an example of institutionalized discrimination, the Israeli government failed to provide COVID-19 vaccine to five million Palestinians in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip when Israel’s vaccination took place. early December 2020.
“This move clearly violates Israel’s obligations as a occupying power under international law,” the report said.
The pandemic also made the situation worse for migrant workers accused of “mistreatment”. kafala funding system in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the rights watchdog said.
While some Gulf countries waive the penalty for overstaying visas, many migrant workers also face arbitrary and unpaid layoffs for months.
Migrant workers are also at increased risk of COVID-19 due to poor sanitation and overcrowding in camps or shelters.
In Jordan, thousands of migrant workers who lose their jobs rarely have access to social protection or alternative jobs.
In Libya, minority groups including the Tabus and the Touaregs, from historically forgotten regions, have been denied adequate medical care due to inability to access hospitals due to rival armed groups. control or sometimes lack of formal documentation, the report said.
It is reported that in some countries, prisoners are at risk of COVID-19 infection due to overcrowding, poor sanitation and ventilation.
The rights watchdog says overcrowding is common due to arbitrary detention practices, including prolonged pre-trial detention without effective appeal, like in Egypt or executive detention. key in Israel, the rights watchdog said.
Heba Morayef, MENA’s regional director at Amnesty International, calls 2020 a “catastrophic year” for those who have already been marginalized, as the pandemic makes their situation worse. “More precarious than ever”.
“The pandemic has intensified the divisions, discrimination and inequality that already exist in the region. Governments must give priority to providing adequate health care in prisons and to alleviate overcrowding; All those who have been arbitrarily detained must be released, ”said Morayef.
“It is important that governments in MENA make sure the health care they provide, including vaccines, is delivered without discrimination.”
Unprotected medical staff
Health workers across the region suffered, the report said, because of “the deliberate bypass health system and pitiful social protection measures”.
In Egypt, at least 9 health workers expressing safety concerns or criticizing the government’s handling of the pandemic have been detained, awaiting investigation into “related to terrorism” and “launched. hearsay”.
Workers in Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia are not provided with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
“It is important to acknowledge the courage of the medical staff who put their lives on the lower levels despite great risks. With slow immunization efforts and the pandemic showing no signs of remission in MENA, it is important that authorities ensure health workers are adequately protected, ”Morayef said.
Across the Gulf in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE authorities have used the pandemic as an excuse to further suppress freedom of speech, including prosecuting individuals who post it. Critical commentary on social media about the government’s response to the pandemic, the right group is found.
Authorities in Algeria, Jordan and Morocco have declared a state of emergency and punished criticism with arrests or prosecutions.
In Morocco, new medical emergency laws are in place to prosecute human rights activists and citizen journalists for criticizing the government’s response to the pandemic, Amnesty said.
In Egypt and Iran, journalists and social media users face harassment or arrest for criticism and comments. In Tunisia, activists faced criminal charges because they criticized the local government’s distribution of aid during the nation’s shutdown.
In Israel, authorities have resorted to raids, judicial harassment and travel bans to intimidate peaceful critics – including Amnesty International campaigners. Laith Abu Zeyad People continue to face a travel ban.
The rights protests continued
In Lebanon, just a few days later Beirut port explosion On August 4, security forces cracked down unarmed protesters calling for justice for the victims with illegal force, firing tear gas, rubber bullets and bullets at the protesters. Being unarmed has injured more than 230 people, Amnesty said.
In Tunisia, protests against economic hardship followed months of closure and arrests and disproportionate illegal force.
“As leaders across MENA exploited the pandemic to tighten their freedom of expression, people in the region have continued to show that they will not remain silent in the face of oppression and injustice. , ”Said Morayef.