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“Migrants must be released from detention,” says CoE Human Rights Commissioner

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.

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2 comments

  1. Solves the problem for Greece 😀 Because they will all speed to Germany & The Netherlands

  2. David van de Gevel

    It is a noble gesture for Dunja Mijatovic to demand the release of migrants into the wider (Greek) population
    but, I think this is misguided. There are more than enough problems dealing with the outbreaks in the indigenous population without exacerbating the situation further by complying with her demands.
    What should be happening is a greater effort to deal with the fundamental problems of health issues within the camp scenario. As Greece has been at the sharp end of illegal immigration for some time, only substantial support, be it financial or material, from the EU will help resolve this issue. Were there a mechanism for ensuring that any released immigrants were clear of the virus, there might be a valid humanitarian case for such releases. We are all in a lock down situation. The camps should not be an exception unless there is a guarantee that such releases do not pose a threat.This is not an opinion from a right wing racist but from a rational-thinking socialist. This is not a time for idealism but pragmatism.