Regional Bureau for Europe: COVID-19 Emergency Response, Update # 12 (19 June – 1 July 2020)

Across the region, further movement and border restrictions were lifted, which shall facilitate access to territory and international protection.

UNHCR staff is gradually moving back to office premises. After 24 offices shifted from full-time to partial telework, no UNHCR office is in full teleworking mode as of 1 July.

UNHCR and partners’ physical access to persons of concern is improving with the progressive lifting of movement restrictions, in compliance with COVID-19 preventive measures.

Operational Context

  • All 49 countries and one territory in the region have reported COVID-19 cases among the general population. To date, 24 countries have reported cases among persons of concern, and some of them have already recovered. However, any figure or estimate need to be taken with caution due to differing approaches to testing, data segregation and reporting.
  • As a result of lifted movement restrictions across the region, movements of populations of concern have picked up again, in some countries reaching pre-COVID-19 levels. Where a spike of COVID-19 cases was observed, authorities have postponed or even reversed the lifting of some restrictions.
  • UNHCR country offices are gradually resuming suspended activities, for example protection monitoring at borders. As of 30 June, all 37 offices in the region are partially teleworking, meaning that the 24 offices that were on full telework at some point were able to ease partially return to office spaces.
  • On the start of the German six-month Presidency to the Council of the EU on 1 July, UNHCR issued a press release in Brussels and Berlin recalling its Recommendations to the 2020 Council Presidencies to keep refugee protection high on the agenda. At the heart of the call are the preservation of access to asylum, fair and fast asylum procedures, together with an effective solidarity mechanism. To ensure a bold and robust response to forced displacement during the pandemic and beyond, UNHCR made concrete proposals. The press release also recalled the Recommendations for the European Commission’s Proposed Pact on Asylum and Migration and UNHCR’s 5 Key Calls to the EU on the COVID-19 response.

UNHCR Response

  • UNHCR’s response to the COVID-19 situation is focusing on:
    • Continuing to provide protection assistance including legal aid, registration, documentation, refugee status determination, protection counselling, prevention and response to gender-based violence, as well as child protection services.
    • Supporting national authorities in setting up preparedness and response plans, including improving access to water and sanitation where possible and enhancing reception capacity post disembarkation by establishing quarantine and isolation areas in reception centres to better monitor and isolate, as necessary, confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases;
    • Enhancing national and community-based communication platforms to interact with refugees and displaced communities and transmit quality information on hygiene, access to health care and other essential measures in a culturally appropriate manner and in relevant languages;
    • In some operations, supporting authorities in identifying alternative accommodation or bringing current housing for asylum-seekers up to acceptable protection and hygienic standards;
    • Ensuring the inclusion of persons of concern, host communities and service providers in the provision and distribution of adequate hygienic items;
    • Continuous advocacy to ensure the inclusion of persons of concern in national COVID-19 preparedness and response plans;
    • Additional one-off cash distributions to persons of concern, to allow them to cope with the adverse economic impact of COVID-19 and related measures on their livelihoods and self-reliance.

 

Source: Ethiopia News agency

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