In this week’s news highlights: Ethiopia reduces Eritrean refugee registration by lifting prima facie status; Ethiopia postpones elections due to COVID-19; New Sudanese government needs international support to curb COVID-19; Uganda closes its borders to refugees; Eritrea called upon to release prisoners of conscience; First COVID-19 cases in Greek refugee camp; Cyprus pushes boat with refugees back to sea; Experts call upon the EU to revise migration policy; Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic broke EU law; EU to monitor arms-embargo Libya; Merchants ships returning refugees to Libya may be prosecuted; New NGO rescue mission in the Mediterranean; 1.600 attacks targeting refugees and asylum seekers in Germany; Germany considers asking refugee help; Stateless people could be denied healthcare; UN agencies urge protection of migrants and refugees; North Africa has most reported COVID-19 cases in Africa; Forcibly displaced people and migrants priority to curb COVID-19; And people leave big African cities due to coronavirus.
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.
“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.