EU agency concerned over COVID-19 impact on migrants, asylum seekers

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has expressed its concerns over the additional obstacles facing migrants and asylum seekers when they are trying to enter the EU and the increase in allegations of pushbacks at borders.

Among the restrictions which migrants and asylum seekers were worried about is the requirement by some EU member states for all foreign arrivals to self-quarantine or provide a negative COVID-19 test, which “many people seeking safety in the EU cannot fulfil”, Xinhua news agency quoted the FRA as saying on Monday.

The latest FRA quarterly bulletin on migration said the coronavirus containment measures led to a 90 per cent decrease in asylum applications in April 2020, the lowest rate since 2008.

Commenting on the situation at reception centers across Europe, the agency said the restrictions and quarantines in reception centers are often stricter than those for the general population.

Many new arrivals are not registered at all or with a delay while access to legal help is limited.

It noted, while many countries allowed people who were supposed to leave the reception centres to stay until the pandemic is over, unsuccessful asylum applicants or even recognized refugees often became homeless in others.

The agency, which has been collecting data on migration since 2015, also expressed its apprehension that, due to the pandemic, many asylum-seeking children cannot access education.

Many centre lack online learning tools or stable Wi-Fi connection.

According to the International Organization for Migration, at least 16,724 migrants arrived in Europe in the period between January and April this year, a 16 per cent increase from the 14,381 arriving during the same period last year.

Nearly half of all arrivals have been to Greece, this year’s busiest destination.

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