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Protecting Human Rights During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Long length of wire fence

May 18, 2020

On Wednesday, May 13, 2020, the Dornsife School of Public Health hosted a webinar, “Protecting Human Rights During the COVID-19 Pandemic” as a part of the series “Emerging Issues in the Coronavirus Pandemic.”

The virtual event was moderated by Nina Sun, JD, assistant clinical professor and deputy director of Global Health at Dornsife, who welcomed the following panelists:

  • Joseph Amon, PhD, MSPH, clinical professor and director of the Office of Global Health at Dornsife,
  • Ariana Sawyer, U.S.-Mexico Border researcher, Human Rights Watch,
  • Tamara Taraciuk Broner, acting deputy director, Americas Division, Human Rights Watch,
  • Belkis Wille, senior researcher, Crisis and Conflict Division, Human Rights Watch, and
  • Rajat Khosla, Human Rights Adviser at the World Health Organization.

The hour-long session focused on the public health advocacy and the urgent need to protect populations and communities who are too often left behind during the pandemic.

Each panelist provided expertise on a specific population.

Belkis offered insights on the health and human rights of people on the Greece-Turkey border. She shared that in March the Greek authorities began detaining people for seeking asylum and crossing the border to “protect” the Greek people. In the crowded camps, detainees lack access to masks and other essential items to protect themselves from the virus.

“Without access to water, without access to soap, without access to the space that is needed to socially distance they are very seriously at risk,” said Belkis.

A similar situation is taking place on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Sawyer shared that asylum seekers’ cases are essentially on hold by the Supreme Court during the pandemic putting them at “great risk” in the encampments.

Amon shared his human rights concerns throughout the United States, specifically for people in prisons. Incarcerated people face extremely difficult challenges when trying to protect themselves from the virus due to lack of space and medical care.

“We have the ability to do better and we have to do better,” said Amon.

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