Migrants at much higher risk of death, particularly during the pandemic. Photo: Reuters
Migrants at much higher risk of death, particularly during the pandemic. Photo: Reuters

A report by the French National Institute of Statistics (Insee) highlights a dramatic increase in mortality in 2020 among people born abroad compared to those born in France, particularly during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Africans and Asians are most affected.

Foreign-born populations experienced twice as much excess mortality in 2020 during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic than those born in France, according to a survey published on April 16.

The number of deaths is most significant among people from Africa. While the number of deaths in France increased by an average of 9% last year compared to 2019, with 669,000 deaths, that of foreign people jumped by 17%, says Insee.

"During the first wave of the pandemic, the increase in deaths of people born abroad was 2.1 times higher on average than those of people born in France," says Insee, providing an unprecedented overview of the impact of the health crisis on this population.

Significant excess mortality rates among Africans and Asians

Excess mortality rates have especially hit the North Africans with an increase of 21% (40,100 deaths). Africans from other countries (outside the Maghreb) saw their mortality increase by 36% (7,400 deaths).

Asians in France are affected by this too. Patients of Asian origin also experienced high excess mortality rates, with a 29% jump in deaths (6,300), while those from Europe, America or Oceania recorded an increase in mortality "close to that observed for people born in France."

While Insee says its study "does not explain the difference in excess mortality" between these different populations, it notes that the gap widened especially in March and April 2020, when the pandemic led to the first lockdown.

Also read: Bosnia: COVID-19 infections rising in migrant camps

Death toll in March-April 2020

Over these two specific months, "with all possible causes taken into consideration, the deaths of people born abroad increased by 49%" compared to the same period of 2019. This is against 23% for those born in France, according to the Insee study.

In particular, Insee data reveals that during these two months, excess mortality peaked at 55% among North Africans, 117% among the rest of Africans and 92% among Asians.

The ratio of excess mortality among foreigners "was more moderate for the second wave (1.7 against 2.1), although it remained high," the statistical body says.

Overexposure to the virus for the most vulnerable migrants

This data supports the idea, posited by other surveys published in recent months by associations, that most vulnerable migrants have been overexposed to the virus without protection or support.

A study conducted by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the summer of 2020, published in October, highlighted a "huge" prevalence among this population.

According to MSF, the rate of COVID-19 positivity reached 50% in shelters and 89% in migrant workers' hostels in Île-de-France, mainly populated by African nationals.

The Insee study also highlights that "the increase in deaths has been particularly high in Île-de-France," with a 93% increase in deaths in March-April 2020, compared to the same period in the previous year.


More articles