This week Mission Outreach profiles Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS).
For 80 years, LIRS has been a champion for migrants and refugees from around the globe. As a vital arm of the United States refugee admissions program, LIRS works to pair vulnerable refugees with LIRS service partners who are uniquely equipped to support their needs.
Please check out their excellent website at www.lirs.org where you may view more information on the work they do, sign up for their newsletter, read blogs and press releases, watch videos, and find opportunities to get involved.
Here is an excerpt from a recent update they have posted on The Effect of Coronavirus on Refugee Camps:
As Covid-19 continues to spread throughout the world, migrant and refugee communities find themselves among the most vulnerable to the virus. The circumstances often do not allow them to follow public health guidelines. Refugee camps are frequently overcrowded, therefore making social distancing nearly impossible. Aid organizations face shortages of food, medicine, and sanitation products due to disruptions in global supply chains. Access to healthcare is limited and governments have redirected attention and resources to combating the pandemic among their citizens. These conditions make refugee camps highly susceptible to the virus.
The Matamoros migrant camp in Mexico formed in 2018 when the Trump administration enacted policies that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico as their applications moved through U.S. immigration courts. There is little potential for social distancing in Matamoros. Asylum seekers live in makeshift tents that are just inches apart and house up to six people. Furthermore, asylum seekers have no access to electricity or running water, and the few portable bathrooms have at times overflowed with waste. Many of the U.S. aid organizations that once provided food, clothing, and legal counseling have left because of coronavirus restrictions. However, Mexican officials have stated that they plan to relocate half of the camp’s residents to a stadium that would provide more space and medical facilities.
Despite the bleak conditions, refugees and migrants have found ways to promote safety and health within the camps. In Matamoros, asylum seekers have sewed face masks for other residents of the camp using sewing machines and cloth brought by volunteers. The Sidewalk School, which has provided education for the young asylum seekers, turned to online classes after receiving a donation of over 100 tablets. As governments scramble to provide adequate testing, supplies, and treatment, communities have turned inwards for safety and support.