The ongoing pandemic has had devastating consequences for people, communities, and economies all over the world. Throughout 2020, PROTECT researchers have paid particular attention to how the pandemic has affected people on the move in different countries and continents. We have summarized our main concerns:
Restrictions on traveling and freedom of movement were implemented in nearly all countries at the onset of the pandemic. Several PROTECT researchers have highlighted the negative and dangerous consequences of these measures for migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
Among them are Elspeth Guild and Kathryn Allinson’s discussions of the inhumane and detention-like conditions that the lockdowns have produced:
– Many asylum seekers in EU states are provided with housing in reception centers, which normally are open so that the residents can come and go, within reason. As the Covid-19 pandemic has tightened its grip on many western states, receptions centers which had been open have now closed their doors, preventing asylum seekers from leaving. Rather than this simply being a matter of interference with the right of freedom of movement, it becomes detention, Guild and Allinson explain in a recent blog post.
In the UK, the BBC reported that detention centers were being placed in lockdown with people unable to leave their rooms. 750 people remained detained in the UK awaiting deportation or release. While processes are suspended for effectuating these, their detention becomes increasingly prolonged and arbitrary.
Asylum seekers returned to US from Canada face detention
PROTECT partner and Ryerson University researcher Idil Atak has addressed the consequences of the Canadian border restrictions and the fact that asylum seekers crossing the US-Canada border irregularly could face detention if returned to the US:
-The government justified the border closure by security concerns around screening people at irregular border crossings for COVID-19. The measure has been criticized by refugee advocates in a context where the US authorities declared that immigration enforcement, including detention and removal of non-citizens would continue during the pandemic.
The 2004 Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement requires asylum seekers to claim refugee protection in the first safe country – the US or Canada- they pass through. It leaves no option but to arrive irregularly in Canada since the agreement applies only to asylum claims made at official ports of entry along the land border. -People turned back to the US will be put in detention if they don’t have status. Immigration detention in the U.S. was already a serious rights violation [and] the situation is even worse now with