The Irish Times view on migrants on the Covid-19 front line: a supreme service

The least the State can do for frontline migrant workers is to fast-track pending citizenship applications

Mariter Tarugo, a healthcare assistant at  St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, who died of Covid-19 on Christmas Eve. Photograph: Gofundme

Mariter Tarugo, a healthcare assistant at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, who died of Covid-19 on Christmas Eve. Photograph: Gofundme

 

Mariter Tarugo was something of a pioneer. In 2000, she was among the first groups of migrants to travel from the Philippines to Ireland to work in the country’s health services. The then 40-year-old travelled alone and found work in a nursing home before her husband Nicolas and daughter Nice Marie joined her six years later. That same year, 2006, she moved to a new job as a healthcare assistant in St Vincent’s hospital, in Dublin. A kind-hearted, hard-working woman, she became a fixture on St Andrew’s ward, loved by her colleagues, cherished by the patients she cared for.

For Mariter as for all those on the front line of the Covid-19 emergency, 2020 was a brutal year – a time of anxiety and fear, but also a time when her adopted country needed her more than ever and she stepped up with the same selfless spirit that always animated her. The entire family did the same: Nicolas worked as a carer with the most vulnerable while Nice Marie, now 32, worked alongside her mother in St Vincent’s.

The family had been looking forward to spending New Year together, with some karaoke and good food. With vaccines due to arrive within days, things had been looking up by the time Mariter tested positive. She died on Christmas Eve with her daughter and husband by her bedside.

When the pandemic comes to an end, the State will need to find a way to memorialise the dead and pay tribute to those who stood in the front line. Migrants will be prominent among them. About 6,000 Filipinos work in Irish hospitals. Other migrants play essential roles in nursing homes, as cleaners and shop assistants. The least the State can do for them is to fast-track pending citizenship applications, which are mired in bureaucratic delays of several years, causing stress and frustration to people who deserve better.

With their care and commitment, these migrants have done a supreme service that cannot be forgotten. They deserve gratitude but, more importantly, those who want it should receive real and meaningful acknowledgement of their rightful place in the national family.

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