By Tahseen Shams, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto
This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that what happens in a faraway land does not stop at its borders but can produce domino effects forceful enough to lock down the entire world. How have we as a globalised society responded to this moment with regards to immigrant integration?
Not well. Immigrants, long singled-out as disease carriers, are again being blamed for the world’s epidemic. Because the Coronavirus originated in China, xenophobia has now turned its gaze on those perceived as Asian immigrants. Pre-existing anti-Chinese racism, for instance, has spiked in the United States even though the virus that led to the outbreak in New York, which has the largest U.S. death toll, came from Europe. Anti-immigrant xenophobia has risen in general despite immigrants comprising the bulk of our essential workforce. Right-wing advocates, based on what could only be described as poorly disguised racism, are using the pandemic as evidence of the dangers of immigration. Their fearmongering taps into the public’s fears and suspicion towards “foreigners”—a label that never seems to detach itself from immigrants and their descendants. Social media, fake news, and political discourse are also helping to depict immigrants as foreigners who bring dangers from faraway lands into our country.