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04 January 2018

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Photo: Jessamyn Bowling/IOM 2009

Hidden in the Ashes: Migrant Farmworkers are Invisible During California Wildfires

California (IOM) - Migrant farmworkers in California contribute to an economically profitable agricultural system. Yet they are among the most vulnerable communities. Most migrant farmworkers are members of the working poor with limited to no access to health care. Anti-immigrant sentiment partnered with racism make life for migrants in the State difficult at best. Migrant vulnerabilities are amplified during times of disasters and their risk of experiencing negative consequences are disproportionately higher.

When the wildfires broke out throughout the state of California, I immediately thought about migrant workers and their families and how they are faring through the emergency. My experience during the 2007 wildfires taught me that crises like these usually affect the migrant community disproportionately as they tend to not have access to information, resources or support in times of disaster. 

Coverage of the recent Lilac Fire that began here in San Diego California is no exception. The abrupt evacuation and unfortunate death of several thoroughbred horses from a local ranch received ample news coverage nationally. The news was devastating, but I find the way media overlooks groups of humans, like migrants, in times of disaster very disheartening and frustrating.

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Migrant workers at a shelter in Singapore. Photo: Xyza Bacani/Pulitzer Center 2016

2017: A Year in Photos

Washington (Pulitzer Center) – The refugee crisis in Europe, the children of Boko Haram, and widows living in India: these are just a few of the topics documented by our journalist grantees this year. To wrap up 2017, each of our staff members chose their favorite image from over 150 projects. Take a look at our selections below. 

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Syed: "Seniors do not seem to care for age or race, and they just greet everyone. It is a lovely habit that all generations should practice!"
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Migration in the News

  • IPS traveled to the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar to speak with Rohingya refugees, humanitarian workers and officials about the still-unfolding human rights and health crises facing this long-marginalized and persecuted community. 
  • Dhaka Tribune reported that the Royal Thai Government has donated $200,000 for the Rohingya refugees who have fled violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state for safety in Bangladesh. 
  • EU Observer reported that for 2017 up to the end of January 2018, a total 20,000 migrants stuck in Libya will have been returned to their home countries, according to IOM.
  • The Slovak Spectator reported that IOM in Slovakia will this year re-open Open Slovak Language Courses for Foreigners from countries outside the European Union. 
  • HR Asia reported that labour migration can lead to long-term improvements in the lives of migrant workers if their labour rights are protected and they are given opportunities for skills development, say ILO and IOM in a new study.
  • The Local reported that an activist group and the brother of an Algerian man who died in a Spanish jail used as a migrant centre called Tuesday for an independent probe into his apparent suicide after allegations of police brutality. 

Trending on the Internet

  • CBC’s The Sunday Edition spoke with UN special rapporteur on human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, about why he believes resisting migration is an impossible goal.
  • CNN reported about a new photography exhibition in New York entitled "The Immigrants," which hopes to remind us that immigration has always been part of the human experience.


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