India coronavirus cases rise as millions return home

At least 4.5 million workers had returned home from economic hubs in the two months of lockdown. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 26 May 2020

India coronavirus cases rise as millions return home

  • At least 4.5 million workers had migrated home from economic hubs in the two months of lockdown
  • India had recorded a total 145,380 infections and a death toll of 4,167

MUMBAI: Indian states witnessing millions of migrant laborers returning from the big cities are recording rising coronavirus infections, officials said on Tuesday, fearing that the pandemic could spread through villages where medical care is basic at best.
Officials from the home and railway ministries said at least 4.5 million workers had migrated home from economic hubs in the two months since Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a lockdown.
On Tuesday, India had recorded a total 145,380 infections and a death toll of 4,167, low figures for the world’s second-most populous country when compared with some countries in Europe.
But the eastern state of Bihar registered more than 160 infections on Monday, its highest one-day rise, taking its tally to more than 2,700 cases. In the past 36 hours, more than 75 people tested positive in Odisha and 35 in three isolation homes in the desert state of Rajasthan.
The latest cases have forced authorities to stretch limited testing resources.
“Dozens of laborers who traveled from New Delhi have tested positive. We are ensuring that no one enters their village with this infection,” said Gaurav Sinha, a senior health official in Bihar’s capital, Patna.
Economists studying reverse migration patterns said India’s poorest migrant laborers have been the worst hit by the lockdown. TV footage early in the crisis showed police beating migrant workers as they tried to board city buses to reach their villages, making a mockery of social distancing.
On May 1, the government responded to rising public opposition to the migrant crisis by allowing special trains to take workers back to their home states.
But millions of workers without jobs or money are still waiting to reach home.
“The migrant crisis exposes the spatial fault-lines of India’s development,” wrote Sai Balakrishnan, an assistant professor at Harvard University, in the Mint newspaper.


UK to deploy military to prevent migrant Channel crossings

The Royal Navy has been deployed as recently as January 2019 in an attempt to reduce the number of refugees and migrants arriving to the UK via the English Channel. (Reuters)
Updated 10 August 2020

UK to deploy military to prevent migrant Channel crossings

  • French parliamentarian called the plans a “political measure” that would not help the situation.
  • Roughly 4,000 people have made the dangerous trip from France to the UK so far this year.

LONDON: The UK has announced it will use the military to prevent migrants entering the country from France via the English Channel, but the plans have drawn criticism from French politicians and rights groups in the UK.

More than 4,000 people have successfully made the crossing so far this year, and many of those have done so in small and overburdened boats.

Responding to the escalating number of people attempting the journey, the Home Office officially requested last week that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) assist the Border Force in its duties.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said her department was “working to make this route unviable” and announced on Sunday the appointment of a former Royal Marine to manage the government’s response to the crossings.

In response to Patel’s request, the MoD announced on Monday that it would send a Royal Air Force plane with spotters on board to assist the Border Force in its operations in the English Channel.

But the issue has caused tension between the UK and France.

The French National Assembly member for Calais, Pierre-Henri Dumont, slammed the decision to use the military to prevent crossings as a useless “political measure.”

He said: “What is the British navy going to do if it sees a small boat? Is it going to shoot the boat? Is it going to enter French waters? It’s a political measure to show some kind of muscle but technically speaking it won’t change anything.”

Paris has also requested that London provides £30 million to fund French efforts to prevent migrants from attempting the dangerous crossing from their side.

Patel’s decision to use the military to prevent Channel crossings has also drawn condemnation from human rights groups.

Bella Sankey, a barrister and director of Detention Action said: “The home secretary’s hysterical plea to the navy is as irresponsible as it is ironic. Pushbacks at sea are unlawful and would threaten human lives.

“No civilised country can even consider this, let alone a country with a tradition of offering sanctuary to those fleeing persecution,” she added.

Migration has long been a hot button issue in British politics, and this will not be the first time authorities have used the military to enforce migration policies.

In January 2019, the Royal Navy sent three ships to the Channel to prevent migrant crossings, saying at the time that the deployment would “help prevent migrants from making the dangerous journey.”