Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, is demanding that the national governments of the European Union release migrants from detention and back into the general population as a coronavirus (COVID-19) prevention measure.
In a statement last week, Mijatovic said that EC member states should “review the situation of rejected asylum seekers and irregular migrants in immigration detention, and to release them to the maximum extent possible.”
She added that release should be done because “immigration detention facilities generally provide poor opportunities for social distancing and other measures to protect against Covid-19 infection for migrants and staff.”
Mijatovic also noted that Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom had already released migrants as a result of the pandemic.
She stressed that “holding migrants in detention facilities is only lawful under human rights treaties when it is certain that detainees will eventually be returned to their homelands. Since that’s no longer possible in many cases given the travel restrictions imposed in response to the pandemic, migrant detention is no longer defensible on legal grounds.
“In the face of the global Covid-19 pandemic, many member states have had to suspend forced returns of persons no longer authorized to stay on their territories, including so-called Dublin returns, and it is unclear when these might be resumed. Under human rights law, immigration detention for the purpose of such returns can only be lawful as long as it is feasible that return can indeed take place. This prospect is clearly not in sight in many cases at the moment,” she wrote.
Mijatovic offered no suggestions as to what should be done with the migrants once they’re released. She only emphasized that they need to be given access to accommodations, basic services, and healthcare.