Mahanirban Calcutta Research group


Principles of Protection of Migrants, Refugees, and Displaced Persons in times of COVID 19

More than 700 signatories endorsed the fourteen Principles of Protection, an initiative to call attention to and codify the human rights of all migrants, refugees, and displaced persons around the world in this time of COVID-19. The initiative is taken by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, Cornell Law School's Migration and Human Rights Program, and The New School's Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility.

The principles are:

1. Equal treatment and non-discrimination: State policies responding to COVID-19 must guarantee equal and non-discriminatory treatment of all persons, irrespective of their immigration and citizenship status or the fact of their displacement.

2. Right to health: States must respect the right to health of migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons, including by ensuring that the provision of essential medicines, prevention, and treatment are provided in a non-discriminatory manner.

3. State obligations to combat stigma, racism and xenophobia: States should ensure that neither their actions nor the actions of others stigmatize or incite violence against persons on account of their actual or perceived health status, in particular when such stigmatization is linked to nationality or immigration status.

4. Restrictions on movement between States: States are required to ensure that restrictions on mobility adopted in response to COVID-19 respect the rights of all persons to leave any State and to re-enter their home States.

5. Restrictions on movements within States: In responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, States must respect the liberty of movement of all persons within their territory.

6. Non-return and access to territory: A State’s pursuit of legitimate health goals must respect the fundamental principle of nonrefoulement, including non-return to a real risk of persecution, arbitrary deprivation of life, torture, or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

7. Enforcement of immigration law, including detention: States may not enforce immigration laws in a manner that increases the risk of transmission of COVID-19, and such enforcement must comport with fundamental norms of due process. Detention of migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons is impermissible where such detention would expose them to serious risks to their health and life due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

8. Right to protection of life and health for persons in camps, collective shelters, and settlements: States must take effective measures to mitigate COVID-19 transmission among migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons living in camps, collective shelters, and settlements.

9. Right to information: Migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons have a right to information about COVID-19, including information related to symptoms, prevention, control of spread, treatment, and social relief. The internet is an indispensable source of information, and blocking or interfering with access during a pandemic is not justifiable.

10. Protection of privacy: In responding to COVID-19, States must protect the right to privacy of migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons, including their right to control the release of personal medical information.

11. Gender considerations: States must ensure the protection of the rights of displaced women, girls and gender-nonconforming people, and should identify and mitigate particular threats to their health, safety, and well-being in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

12. Marginalized groups: Certain groups among migrant, refugee, and other displaced populations require special attention in the context of COVID-19, particularly when it comes to protecting the right to health, access to information, and the prohibition on discrimination. These include older people, persons with disabilities, and children.

13. Labor rights of workers: States must observe the labor rights of migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons working in essential occupations and industries, and in particular take measures to protect their health. States must provide assistance to migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons who lose their jobs and incomes due to the COVID-19 pandemic to the same extent that such protection is afforded to nationals.

14. Rights and their limitations: Any restrictions on rights must be provided by law and be reasonable, necessary, and proportionate. Rights may not be suspended except in a publicly declared emergency threatening the life of the nation, and only if strictly required by the situation. Any such suspension must be consistent with the State’s other international legal obligations."

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