Written by Jennifer Haddow, Deputy Director of Content


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many States have enforced harsh measures against migrants, refugees, and displaced persons, infringing on established international human rights norms. These human rights norms apply to all persons, regardless of their immigration status. The Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility undertakes initiatives to inform and influence public debate and policy. The Institute developed 14 Principles of Protection to “…inform and guide State action, to assist international organizations, and to provide a basis for advocacy and education.”, for the protection of migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons. 

Over the next 12 weeks in the lead up to International Migrants Day on Friday, December 18, STAND Canada will be mobilizing its social media platforms to highlight the Zolberg Institute’s 14 principles. The Fall 2020 #Stand4Migrants campaign seeks to enter the 14 Principles of Protection into public discourse, encouraging the Canadian public to develop a knowledge-based awareness of the causes of the refugee crisis, barriers facing Asylum Seekers, the experiences of refugees in Canada, and Canada’s role in accepting and denying asylum seekers during the COVID-19 era. 


The following 14 principles are offered by the Zolberg Institute to inform action and provide the basis for advocacy and education on human rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  1. Equal treatment and non-discrimination 

State policies responding to COVID-19 must guarantee equal and non-discriminatory treatment of all persons, irrespective of their immigration and citizenship status or the fact of their displacement. 

  1. Right to health 

States must respect the right to health of migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons, including by ensuring that the provision of essential medicines, prevention, and treatment are provided in a non-discriminatory manner. 

  1. State obligations to combat stigma, racism and xenophobia 

States should ensure that neither their actions nor the actions of others stigmatize or incite violence against persons on account of their actual or perceived health status, in particular when such stigmatization is linked to nationality or immigration status. 

  1. Restrictions on movement between States

States are required to ensure that restrictions on mobility adopted in response to COVID-19 respect the rights of all persons to leave any State and to re-enter their home States. 

  1. Restrictions on movements within States 

In responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, States must respect the liberty of movement of all persons within their territory.

  1. Non-return and access to territory

A State’s pursuit of legitimate health goals must respect the fundamental principle of non-refoulment, including non-return to a real risk of persecution, arbitrary deprivation of life, torture, or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

  1. Enforcement of immigration law, including detention

States may not enforce immigration laws in a manner that increases the risk of transmission of COVID-19, and such enforcement must comport with fundamental norms of due process. Detention of migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons is impermissible where such detention would expose them to serious risks to their health and life due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Right to protection of life and health for persons in camps, collective shelters, and settlements 

States must take effective measures to mitigate COVID-19 transmission among migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons living in camps, collective shelters, and settlements.

  1. Right to information 

Migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons have a right to information about COVID-19, including information related to symptoms, prevention, control of spread, treatment, and social relief. The internet is an indispensable source of information, and blocking or interfering with access during a pandemic is not justifiable. 

  1. Protection of privacy 

In responding to COVID-19, States must protect the right to privacy of migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons, including their right to control the release of personal medical information. 

  1. Gender considerations 

States must ensure the protection of the rights of displaced women, girls and gender-non- conforming people, and should identify and mitigate particular threats to their health, safety, and well-being in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  1. Marginalized groups 

Certain groups among migrant, refugee, and other displaced populations require special attention in the context of COVID-19, particularly when it comes to protecting the right to health, access to information, and the prohibition on discrimination. These include older people, persons with disabilities, and children. 

  1. Labor rights of workers 

States must observe the labor rights of migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons working in essential occupations and industries, and in particular take measures to protect their health. States must provide assistance to migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons who lose their jobs and incomes due to the COVID-19 pandemic to the same extent that such protection is afforded to nationals. 

  1. Rights and their limitations 

Any restrictions on rights must be provided by law and be reasonable, necessary, and proportionate. Rights may not be suspended except in a publicly declared emergency threatening the life of the nation, and only if strictly required by the situation. Any such suspension must be consistent with the State’s other international legal obligations. 


The #Stand4Migrants campaign will combine education and political advocacy in its aim to foster political action with the public’s support, focusing on three distinct pillars; engagement, lobbying, and education. 

Over the 12 weeks, STAND intends to devote its social media space to public engagement, examining each of the 14 principles and its relations to migrants within and outside of Canada. The 14-week countdown will culminate in a single day of social media activism. On December 18, International Migrants Day, STAND will endeavour to get #Stand4Migrants trending on Instagram. We want to ensure that these 14 principles enter Canadian public discourse to ensure that migrants’ concerns and voices are heard during the COVID-19 era.

To promote education and understanding of the 14 Principles and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on migrants around the world, STAND will kick off the campaign with the launch of a research paper and panel event. In partnership with the CPJ (Citizens for Public Justice) and STAND USA, the two events will be organized around the Safe Third Country Agreement and will be an opportunity to network with peers, discuss the paper’s findings, and hear from a keynote speaker. These events will provide STAND members and the general public an opportunity to hear from experts on the impact of COVID-19 on migrants’ rights globally. 

As a political advocacy organization, all our campaigns are fundamentally oriented toward facilitating political action. As part of the campaign’s lobbying pillar, STAND will continue to connect and develop partnerships with Canadian Members of Parliament (MPs) advocating for human rights. In combining our efforts, we want to support MPs in putting forward a policy that will allocate 1% of the federal budget toward foreign aid and follow Zolberg Insitute’s 14 Principles of Protection for Migrants and Displaced People.


We hope to engage Canadians by raising awareness of the causes of the refugee crisis and migrants’ experiences worldwide while building long-term relationships with key partners while creating enduring change. So how can you show your support and ensure you stay up to date with the #Stand4Migrants campaign? 

Follow STAND Canada across our social media platforms @STANDCanada 

Use the hashtag! We want to see #Stand4Migrants trending, ensuring that migrants’ concerns and voices are heard during the COVID-19 era. 

Leave a Reply