(Source: Caritas Europa)

We are concerned that several states are using the COVID-19 crisis as a pretext to suspend the human rights of displaced people.

The COVID-19 crisis knows no borders; therefore, Europe must lead by example and uphold the rights of refugees and displaced people at its internal and external borders.

Protect access to asylum and the principle of non-refoulement

Together with other civil society actors, we call on EU Member States to allow individuals seeking international protection to access asylum registration despite border closures, and to refrain from unlawful summary pushbacks to uphold access to asylum and the principle of non-refoulement, in line with guidance issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

This include safeguarding the right to life in the Mediterranean by maintaining open ports for the safe arrival and disembarkation of displaced individuals and, by responding to calls of distress at sea and deploying sufficient rescue capacity while allowing NGO vessels to do the same.

At the Greek-Turkish border, and in the Balkan route, national authorities must put an end to the criminalisation of border crossings, ongoing violence and arbitrary restrictions of movement.

Finally, border measures taken to manage public health risks at Schengen borders must be non-discriminatory and proportionate, and should not prevent people from seeking international protection.

We urge the EU Commission to actively monitor these borders to ensure EU law is upheld, in line with its mandate.

Ensure adequate health and sanitation provisions at the borders

Secondly, we call on EU Member States to ensure at EU internal and external land and sea borders adequate health and sanitation provisions, including access to sufficient testing and medical facilities, non-discriminatory and proportionate quarantine measures and reception conditions respecting social distancing.

In addition, overcrowded camps on the Aegean islands must be evacuated, and displaced individuals detained at EU borders should be released, using all available alternatives to detention, and provided with appropriate accommodation as well as access to health services.

Leave no one behind

Together, we urge the EU Member States, with the support of EU institutions and agencies, to seize this opportunity to lead by example and tackle the COVID-19 crisis by leaving no one behind.

The COVID-19 knows no borders. We are all in this together – disease does not discriminate between borders, nationalities or status, and only an inclusive response will allow us to stop its spread and recover together.

More on Novena on the Church’s defence of migrants, refugees and internally displaced people:

Vatican cardinal urges Catholics to “open eyes” to “invisible” internally displaced people

Vatican calls for world’s 50 million internal migrants to be given same rights as refugees

Austrian Catholics suggest welcoming more refugees in “gratitude” for country escaping worst of COVID-19

“It’s not because we want to go on vacation”: refugees speak out to challenge the stigma

EU Bishops cry: “The pandemic is no excuse to let human beings drown in the Mediterranean”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.