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Online event
Migrant rights and COVID-19

Thursday, 04 June 2020


Henrik Nielsen
Head of Asylum Unit, DG HOME, European Commission
Marie Arena
Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, European Parliament
Michele LeVoy
Director, Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)
Olivia Sundberg Diez
Policy Analyst, European Policy Centre


Jean-Louis De Brouwer
Director, European Affairs Programme, Egmont Institute

Even in normal circumstances, migrants are at greater risk of experiencing rights violations. The implementation of COVID-19 related restrictions since mid-March 2020 has exacerbated this vulnerability with migrants’ access to asylum, basic services, health care, housing and regularisation processes affected to varying degrees across Europe. The lack of protection available in reception and detention facilities for asylum seekers and migrants in irregular situations has also given cause for concern. Against this background, this online Policy Dialogue discussed the European Commission and member states’ efforts to protect migrant rights and uphold European asylum systems. Speakers discussed the effectiveness of states’ efforts to, among others, secure asylum seekers’ access to temporary residence and healthcare benefits, release vulnerable people from immigration detention, or carry out large-scale regularisation programmes for undocumented migrants. The discussion also considered the potential for COVID-19 to serve as a catalyst for much-needed reform to the Common European Asylum System and European social protection systems. Speakers highlighted the potential implications of COVID-19 for narratives around migration, noting that the current demonstrations of solidarity within European societies might pave the way for broader support of migrants’ human rights. In this context, they called for a greater recognition of the vital contributions of refugees and migrants throughout the pandemic. Other recommendations put forward aimed to tackle the criminalisation of NGOs that help refugees and other migrants, uphold the principle of search and rescue even under COVID-19 conditions, and expand the release of migrants from detention, especially children.

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