UN urged to safeguard prisoners and refugees during pandemic



In the light of the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the world IHRC has written to the UN urging the organisation to pressurise governments to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and well-being of the world’s prisoners and refugees.

As demands grows on governments for health and related services as a result of the crisis, refugees are in danger of being neglected or ignored. With huge numbers of them living in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, refugee communities are at much greater risk of infection.

In the current emergency, host states must do all they can to make sure refugees can socially distance themselves and extend the necessary resources to treat the infected and make necessary medical arrangements for the vulnerable in line with their obligations under international law.

Equally, prisoners are also at high risk of infection from this deadly virus. In response to the crisis, many countries have already announced prisoner amnesties or relaxations in custody regimes such as releasing prisoners on licence in order to deal with the crisis.

The impossibility or difficulty of observing social distancing requirements makes it imperative that appropriate safeguarding arrangements are made for those who are detained.There should be no exception to this necessity as all prisoners, whether they are criminal or political, are entitled under international law to be kept in safe conditions.

Where possible governments should release those with less serious criminal convictions on humanitarian grounds.

For more information or comment please contact the Press Office on (+44) 20 8904 4222 or (+44) 7958522196[ENDS]

IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
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