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Regional Bureau for Europe: COVID-19 Emergency Response, Update #8 (20 May – 26 May 2020)

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Across the region, movement restrictions are gradually being lifted and, in many countries, it is expected that travel across internal borders will start to resume in June.

Twelve UNHCR offices in the region have shifted from full-time to partial telework over the last two weeks.

Access to territory remains limited through border closures or entry bans for foreigners, with only a few exceptions.

Many countries in the region continue to maintain access to international protection despite restrictions on access to territory.

UNHCR and partners’ physical access to persons of concern remains limited. It is however anticipated that this will improve 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. So far, 18 countries have reported cases among persons of concern, and some of them have already recovered. However, any figure or estimate at this point needs to be taken with caution due to differing approaches to testing, data segregation and reporting.

  • On 19 May, the Council of Europe (CoE) European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) expressed its grave concern to the Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the EU Representative for Human Rights about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related measures on groups of concern to ECRI. The pandemic is reportedly exacerbating the hardship and difficulties experienced in particular by Roma and migrants in accessing basic health care, food and clean water, adequate accommodation and leads to increased exposure of these groups to hate speech and violence.

  • On 20 May, the CoE’s Violence against Women Division (DG Democracy) and the CoE’s Academic Networks (CEAN), highlighted the dramatic increase of domestic violence as well as the violence against migrant women and victims of human trafficking in the COVID-19 context.

  • As a result of lifted restrictions, some UNHCR country offices are planning to gradually resume some of the suspended activities, for example protection monitoring at borders. As of this week, 12 offices continue to work fully virtually, after 12 have shifted from full-time to partial teleworking.