Corona isolation centers in Argentina

Indigenous communities under forced quarantine (Press Release)

In the Argentine province of Formosa, on the border with Paraguay, members of indigenous communities are currently held in isolation centers against their will – at least according to the report "Nos pronunciamos y proponemos" (We speak out and propose), which reached the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) a few days ago. "In search of people who are infected with the corona virus, police forces are said to have entered indigenous territories to pick up people," stated Regina Sonk, STP expert on indigenous peoples. "And their relatives had to inquire tirelessly to find out that they had been taken to isolation centers."

According to the report, they were accommodated in the centers in groups of 20 to 30 people – with shared bathrooms and without adequate protection against infections. Further, the centers are guarded by police forces, and the inmates are strictly forbidden to leave the facilities. Victims reported beatings and humiliating treatment by the police. Several women report panic attacks, tachycardia, and depression. Many children, including infants, were separated from their mothers and placed with relatives or neighbors.

"The inmates were not informed when they would be released," Sonk criticized. "In the case of an infection, the entire group was quarantined for another 14 days. Some of them were thus kept in the centers for up to 30 days – and family members reported that they were given no information on the whereabouts of their relatives." Further, Sonk stated that 19 people are still missing, and their families have no information on what might have happened to them.

The report was prepared with the support of the Association for the Promotion of Culture and Development (APCD), the Equipo Diocesano de Pastoral Aborigen (EDIPA), the municipality of María de la Merced, the Manos de Hermanos Foundation, and the Enrique Angelelli Neighborhood Center.

More than 20,000 indigenous Wichí live in the province of Formosa on the border with Paraguay. Only 100 years ago, they had been granted their own territories, as did the indigenous peoples of the Nivaclé, Qom, and Pilagá. Meanwhile, these territories have shrunk to 4.6 percent of their original area. Major agribusinesses have managed to annex large parts of these territories, around and after the turn of the millennium. In consequence, the natural environment and biodiversity are suffering: Formosa is one of Argentina's provinces most affected by deforestation.