Published: 11:15, April 1, 2020 | Updated: 05:30, June 6, 2023
UN officials take aim at virus slurs
By Hong Xiao at the United Nations

A person walks through Chinatown on March 24, 2020 in New York City. (ANGELA WEISS / AFP)

United Nations officials have spoken out against instances of people's fears over the novel coronavirus being exploited by politicians and others to attack minority groups.

Fernand de Varennes, the UN special rapporteur on minority issues, said there is an alarming rise in verbal and physical abuse against Chinese and other minorities in a range of countries

Fernand de Varennes, the UN special rapporteur on minority issues, said in a statement on Monday that the exploitation of COVID-19-related fears by some groups and politicians to scapegoat minorities is leading to an alarming rise in verbal and physical abuse against Chinese and other minorities in a range of countries.

This has led to some people being denied access to health care and information about the pandemic, De Varennes said.

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"COVID-19 is not just a health issue; it can also be a virus that exacerbates xenophobia, hate and exclusion," he said.

"Reports of Chinese and other Asians being physically attacked; of hate speech blaming minorities including Roma, Hispanics and others for the spread of the virus; and of politicians calling for migrants to be denied access to medical services, all show that states need to urgently emphasize that the human rights of everyone, in particular of the most vulnerable and marginalized, must be protected.

"All of us can take steps to resist this rise in discriminatory and hate speech against Asian and other minorities in social media, including by joining our voices in messages of support with the hashtags #IAmNotAVirus or #JeNeSuisPas-UnVirus."

The High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, Miguel Moratinos, and the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, expressed similar concerns over the increase in stigma, hate speech and hate crimes targeting individuals and groups vilified and perceived to be associated with the coronavirus across the globe.

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"We are all facing the same enemy, one which is invisible, rapidly advancing, taking lives away and causing havoc indiscriminately," Dieng said. "But allowing it to tear apart the fabric of our societies is perhaps one of the most serious upheavals that the COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting upon our world."