Tackling the coronavirus outbreak: Impact on asylum-seekers in the EU

22-04-2020

To curb the spread of coronavirus and to protect their populations, the EU and its Member States have restricted crossings of their external borders, and many internal EU borders, as well as restricted freedom of movement within their territory. These steps have also served to address the challenges the pandemic has posed to public order, public health and national security. However, the resulting restrictions on people's movement and access to EU territory could disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, among them asylum-seekers-already in the EU or trying to reach its territory to seek asylum. The situation of asylum-seekers during the current pandemic is especially critical in the EU hotspots; Greece, for instance, whose reception capacity has been stretched to the limit, is struggling to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable asylum-seekers, especially unaccompanied minors. While the EU has been assisting Greece to protect stranded asylum-seekers, NGOs and international organisations as well as the European Parliament have called for greater efforts to improve their living conditions and ensure the preventive evacuation of those at high risk. Several Member States have adopted emergency measures to deal with the pandemic. To protect public health, they have closed their external borders and ports to asylum-seekers, suspended asylum procedures and returns, and imposed mandatory confinement in asylum reception centres to restrict freedom of movement. All those measures risk having a negative impact on asylum-seekers' fundamental rights under EU and international law.

To curb the spread of coronavirus and to protect their populations, the EU and its Member States have restricted crossings of their external borders, and many internal EU borders, as well as restricted freedom of movement within their territory. These steps have also served to address the challenges the pandemic has posed to public order, public health and national security. However, the resulting restrictions on people's movement and access to EU territory could disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, among them asylum-seekers-already in the EU or trying to reach its territory to seek asylum. The situation of asylum-seekers during the current pandemic is especially critical in the EU hotspots; Greece, for instance, whose reception capacity has been stretched to the limit, is struggling to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable asylum-seekers, especially unaccompanied minors. While the EU has been assisting Greece to protect stranded asylum-seekers, NGOs and international organisations as well as the European Parliament have called for greater efforts to improve their living conditions and ensure the preventive evacuation of those at high risk. Several Member States have adopted emergency measures to deal with the pandemic. To protect public health, they have closed their external borders and ports to asylum-seekers, suspended asylum procedures and returns, and imposed mandatory confinement in asylum reception centres to restrict freedom of movement. All those measures risk having a negative impact on asylum-seekers' fundamental rights under EU and international law.