Experiences of recent Habesha migrants to the Netherlands

Holding hands - LEF project - Exploring the experiences of recent Habesha migrants in the Netherlands
Alexas Fotos via Pixabay

'Exploring the experiences of recent Habesha migrants to the Netherlands during the COVID-19 crisis'

The measures for the ‘intelligent lockdown’ applied in the Netherlands to contain the spread of COVID-19 affect different segments of society in different ways. For recent migrants, the impacts of these measures may be equal to, or even worse than, the risk of contracting coronavirus.

Migrants and asylum seekers from Ethiopia and Eritrea comprise a substantial proportion of the recent influx of East African migrants to the Netherlands, with Eritrea amongst the top five countries with a large number of migrants in the country.

Migrants, particularly recent migrants, with a low socio-economic status that work on jobs with no permanent contract, have a lack of savings to tap into in times of crisis, and have to deal with language barriers are effected in unprecedented ways due to the pandemic.

Exploring the multiple and complex vulnerabilities the Eritrean and Ethiopian community faces in The Hague

Some of the vulnerabilities that Ethiopian and Eritrean migrants face include lack of access to information, inability to support children on online education, and psychological stress of staying home and not meeting fellow members of their respective communities. Through collaboration with Cultuur in Harmonie, this project explores the multiple and complex vulnerabilities the Eritrean and Ethiopian community face in The Hague.

Preliminary findings

So far, findings have mainly involved the qualitative part of the research, where interviews and in-depth discussions have been conducted. One of the findings shows that the dissemination of important information translated to Tigrigna has proved key to ensure individuals have been well informed about COVID-19 measures. Social distancing measures have proved difficult to understand and impractical to implement, due to the changing nature of the measures and the living situations of the respondents.

The language barrier also proved to have effects on the mental and physical health of respondents, additionally hindered during the initial period of the lockdown when health facilities discouraged visits. Confusion about preventative measures and the nature of the virus also produced anxiety and worries about individual and family health. Incidents of intimate partner violence were also reported, yet were not dealt with appropriately due to investigators not feeling safe to go to households due to COVID-19.

On the more positive side, findings indicate that strong social ties among community members were found, as people relied on each other for information and support. Findings also indicate a form of cross border solidarity supporting the fight against the pandemic in the countries of origin. Additionally, a group of settled migrant volunteers set up an organization called Helpdesk Nieuwkomers to address the needs of recent migrants. Some of their efforts include calling hospitals and health centers on behalf of migrants for medical care, contacting the municipality and schools on behalf of parents in need, and helping laid-off employees and businesses in their application for government support.


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