The European Commission (EC) decided to apply a temporary restriction for non-essential travel from third countries into the European Union or in other words, closed the Schengen external borders. The EU hoped that the decision would enable the lifting of internal border controls. However, such controls have already been applied by several member states in an effort to limit the spread of the virus. Some have criticized the EU’s lack of a unified response and clear message; and some countries, like Hungary and Italy, justify their anti-migration policies by using the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus.
In this week’s news highlights: Human rights group urge Ethiopia not to close Hitsats refugee camp; COVID-19 reaches Eritrea; Ethiopia takes measures against COVID-19; 64 Ethiopian migrants found dead in a container in Mozambique; African flower sector looses jobs; African nations prepare for their battle against COVID-19; African experts team up to research the novel Coronavirus; 85% of refugees crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy report they were tortured in Libya; Commercial ships increasingly used in Libya returns; HRW reports Egyptian security forces torture children; UNHCR temporarily closes two facilities in Libya; UN High Commissioner for Refugees urges countries keep asylum procedures open; UN Special Rapporteur wants Greece to stop rights violations; Unaccompanied minors often disappear from Dutch asylum seeker centers; and Ireland calls upon medically trained refugees and migrants.
“Coronavirus will decimate refugee communities if we don’t act now,” a serious warning from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) that addresses the vulnerable situation of millions displaced people around the world. Secretary General of NRC, Jan Egeland, foresees a “catastrophe” with “devastating” consequence if the virus hits one of the overcrowded and sanitation lacking refugee or displacement sites. The same sentiment was echoed by the Head of Health for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Dr Esperanza Martinez, who said that the spread of the virus would be “impossible to manage” if it reached the displaced communities of Syria or Yemen. Health organizations have made a number of recommendations to protect against COVID-19, but unfortunately many refugees live in a situation in which they themselves as well as their host government cannot follow healthcare guidelines.