Resettled Migrants are Having Hard Time Getting Coronavirus Updates, Adding to Pandemic Concerns

Refugees resettled in the United States from the third world are having a hard time receiving coronavirus updates, blaming the language gap as well as a lack of social services as society is increasingly locked down amidst the panic.

Because of the federally-funded refugee resettlement program, there are 200 different languages that are spoken in the state of Ohio alone. Immigrant advocates are attempting to disseminate information related to this virus to all of these different cultures in order to prevent its spread.

“There’s an extra layer of fear if you don’t speak the language,” said Columbus community activist Houleye Thiam, who serves as president of the Mauritanian Network for Human Rights in the U.S. “You can watch the governor but you can’t understand him; that’s a whole different kind of fear and uneasiness and feeling out of place.”

Columbus has a community of roughly 3,000 Mauritanians. Thiam is worried that bad information and rumors are running rampant through his community, and he is trying to get the best tips to them on how to avoid the spread of the virus.

“The biggest challenge is misinformation.” Thiam said.

The Ohio Department of Health is being forced to devote precious resources to getting coronavirus information out to refugees and foreigners in different languages, distracting from an already daunting task of keeping the native-born U.S. public safe throughout the crisis.

Even the advocates admit that it is an uphill battle to keep these different immigrant communities informed, as the strain of diversity and multiculturalism takes its toll on society.

“Access to information for those with limited English is a challenge and we are working to provide resources,” wrote Lilly Cavanaugh, who works as executive director of the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission.

US Together, a resettlement agency that operates in Ohio, has closed down their doors but is attempting to work with refugees remotely to inform them with up-to-date information about the virus. The Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) has a flier for coronavirus in 10 languages, but that pales in comparison to what they would need to inform the various third-world communities that they are servicing.

“This is ever evolving. These are pretty basic documents,” wrote CRIS executive director Angie Plummer in an email. “Nothing replaces reaching out by phone directly.”

US Together is denying that the refugee resettlement program adds an additional strain during times of crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic that is ongoing.

“Living and working near resettled refugees does NOT put any person at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Suggesting that migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers bring or spread diseases is a long-standing xenophobic trope that has been continually proven to be factually inaccurate,” they wrote in a blog post to address concerns.

That may be the line that the refugee industry is peddling, but it is clear that the influx of refugees resettled with taxpayer dollars is adding additional strain on a system that is already dangerously close to collapse due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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