VIDEO STORY | COVID-19

Refugees and asylum seekers speak up to stop COVID-19

Why language is so critical to slowing its spread

Production:
Malcolm Lucard

Videography:
Louis C. Mouchet

Imagine if everything you heard about COVID-19 prevention was in a language you didn’t fully understand. For many people around the world, this is the reality they face. Multi-lingual refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are coming to the rescue, using the power of language to keep communities healthy. They do this by making videos about COVID-19 prevention in the many languages they speak: Arabic, Bambara, Bengali, French, Fulbe, Ga, Hausa, Italian, Moré, Pigin, Tigrino, Twi, Pashtun, Urdu and Wolof, among others.

They also reach out to asylum seekers and migrants on their own terms, through music, sports and other activities. “Apart from this, we try to decodify the ‘fake news’,” says Christian, one of the volunteers, “and inform people that the virus is here and it’s causing a lot of deaths. To prevent this we all need to stay at home, take preventative measures and be safe.”

In some countries, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants become volunteers for Red Cross or Red Crescent National Societies. Now they share COVID-19 prevention messages in the native languages of others who have arrived as migrants or to claim for asylum.
In Italy, refugees and asylum seekers who become volunteers often become “cultural mediators” who help other newcomers deal with challenges such as COVID-19.

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