The right to asylum in times of corona crisis
The coronavirus crisis is making it even more difficult for asylum-seekers to reach Europe. Italy and Malta have closed their ports to private sea rescue vessels and a ship belonging to aid organisation SeaEye carrying 150 refugees has been waiting for twelve days to enter a European port. Is the pandemic serving as an excuse for blocking access to Europe, or are there good reasons for stringent measures?
Increasingly blatant human rights violations
People who have not been infected are also dying as a result of the virus, the Frankfurter Rundschau warns:
“And more will die, too, because coronavirus is coming in handy for certain states that want to reinforce the already dense defensive bulwark on the EU's external borders and make it more aggressive. Ports are being closed to rescue ships, states have put rescue operations on hold, private rescue ships are being banned from leaving ports. And in the current situation who bothers to voice outrage over the fact that Europe is systematically denying asylum seekers the right of access to a regulated asylum procedure at its external borders? ... What's more, such basic rights are increasingly being revoked because everyone's focused on the coronavirus and far too few media are reporting critically on the increasingly blatant human rights violations by EU member states.”
Self-protection justifies closed ports
Given the threat posed by Covid-19 it's understandable that many countries, including Malta, are refusing to take in more refugees, the Malta Independent argues:
“Our refugee centres have always been overcrowded, and that situation has been made worse by the state of quarantine that has been imposed on the Hal Far open centre. At a time when all air travel has been suspended to avoid the importation of more cases of Covid-19, opening our ports to boats carrying migrants from Northern Africa, where infection control is practically non-existent, could jeopardise the efforts that are being taken locally to stop, or at least slow down, the spread of the virus.”