European Parliament resolution of 13 November 2020 on the impact of COVID-19 measures on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights
Brussels. The fight against covid-19 has made it necessary to adopt emergency measures to stem the pandemic in all over the world and in the European countries in particular.
Last 13 November, The EU Parliament has adopted in Brussels a Resolution on the impact of COVID-19 measures on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, (with 496 votes to 138 and 49 abstentions).
Regarding immigration ans asylum issues, the EU Parliament highlights some of the critical situations that the pandemic crisis and the preventive measures have caused or in any case aggravated, such as the profound impact that lockdown measures and the closing of borders have had on access to asylum procedures.
"AB. whereas lockdown measures and the closing of borders have had a profound impact on access to asylum procedures; whereas many Member States temporarily limited or even put on hold the processing of asylum requests, and most suspended Dublin transfers, returns and resettlement; whereas some Member States have declared their ports unsafe or not allowed the disembarkation of migrants rescued in search and rescue operations, leaving them in limbo for an unlimited period of time at sea and putting their lives at risk; whereas most Member States have now recommenced these activities; whereas outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported in several asylum reception centres, resulting in vulnerable groups being put directly at risk, and whereas overcrowded camps at the EU’s external borders continue to pose a particular risk of a massive outbreak as social distancing rules cannot be applied, while shelter and access to food, water, sanitation facilities, and mental and physical healthcare, including for those who have contracted COVID-19, are very limited".
The EU Parliament also highlights and recalls that vulnerable people are subject to a disproportionate risk of social and economic exclusion, due to the lockdown measures. Without considering that children always face a greater risk of violation of their fundamental rights.
"AD. whereas the enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions should be proportionate and non-discriminatory in order to avoid targeting people belonging to ethnic minorities and marginalised groups; whereas the pandemic affects Romani people disproportionally, with women and children often being the most vulnerable groups, and particularly those living in socially excluded and marginalised settings with no access to drinking water or sanitary services where it is nearly impossible to follow social distancing rules or to comply with strict hygiene measures; whereas there have been reports of incidents of racism and xenophobia in several Member States where discrimination has taken place against people of a certain background or nationality; whereas persons of Asian descent and Romani people have been the targets of hate speech and attacks; whereas certain politicians in some Member States have used media reports of mass returns of Romani migrant workers from countries with a high prevalence of COVID-19 to fan fears about the spread of the virus, reinforcing negative attitudes and stereotypes".
On the basis of the fundamental assumptions referred above, the EU Parliament then calls on the Member States to adopt a series of important precautions and warnings. On the issue linked to the protection of children in migration and the reception of refugees and asylum seekers in Europe, especially in Greek islands, according to paragraph 16, the Parliament:
- Acknowledges that most Member States have recommenced their asylum procedures and that some have made use of the recent period of lower numbers of new applications to reduce the backlog of pending applications;
- calls on the Member States to fully guarantee access to an asylum procedure and to preserve the individual right to asylum, as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and to carry out resettlement and dignified return procedures with full respect for international law;
- calls, furthermore, for access to translators to be provided, or reinstated, as soon as possible for those applying for asylum; urges the Member States to provide adequate physical and mental health facilities in reception centres, given the poor sanitary conditions, the high-risk environment and the vulnerability of refugee populations during the COVID-19 pandemic;
- calls on the Commission and the Member States to draw up an effective plan, with a public health focus, to comprehensively address their situation, including at external borders, by guaranteeing the right to asylum and providing adequate reception conditions for refugees and asylum seekers;
- recalls that COVID-19 measures should never lead to detention; calls for urgent family reunification, the immediate evacuation of the camps on the Greek islands and the relocation of asylum seekers to other Member States, giving priority to the most vulnerable, unaccompanied minors and families with children;
- calls on the Member States to allow disembarkation and to ensure that disembarkation takes place only in a place of safety, in accordance with the relevant international and Union law, and as quickly as possible.