Health for all! Close the camps! Protect people and their rights!

A joint appeal by We’ll Come United, state refugee councils and nationwide medical offices and medical networks

While federal and state governments are taking strict measures in almost all areas of life to prevent the further spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, refugees in camps (reception facilities, communal accommodation, so-called anchorage centres) and in detention pending deportation, as well as illegalised persons and people without health insurance, are inadequately protected. Due to the cramped conditions and the mostly shared use of bathrooms, kitchens and other areas, the people accommodated in the collective accommodation are particularly at risk of contracting the corona virus. At the same time, they have little opportunity to adapt to the current situation due to lack of information, limited financial resources and often a lack of social networks.

We’ll Come United, the state refugee councils, the nationwide Medibüros/Medinetze and many other organizations and initiatives appeal to the federal and state governments to immediately respond to the dynamic epidemic, guarantee health care for all and initiate an emptying of the mass accommodations. Fugitives belonging to risk groups must immediately receive adequate shelter and adequate care – for the protection of individuals and for the protection of all people in this society.

Reducing social contacts, maintaining a minimum distance and ensuring hygienic standards are necessary to prevent further spread of the novel corona virus. None of this is currently possible for thousands of people. In some refugee shelters, diseases and domestic quarantine of hundreds of people have already occurred in very confined spaces, for example in Suhl (Thuringia), in Berlin and in Munich. Reliable information in the required languages is lacking, people persevere in uncertainty and fear behind closed doors and care for seriously ill room neighbours*, for example in Munich, from where there are also already reports of arbitrariness and violence by security personnel.

Or the police arrives in a major operation to enforce a quarantine before the residents have received even the slightest bit of structured multilingual information about what quarantine means and why it was imposed, thus triggering great uncertainty and protests, as in Suhl (Thuringia).

An acute infection must not be countered by forced quarantine of an entire shelter and its inhabitants* and violent enforcement of the measures. Rather, information and education are essential to protect people from both health and psychological damage. We demand the permanent assurance of access to information, multilingual materials, interpretation and the provision of reliable information. Access to the Internet via WLAN must be organised immediately and nationwide for all refugee accommodation.

Access to psychological counselling is also necessary, as the quarantine situation can also have a traumatising or retraumatising effect.

We call for an immediate end to mass accommodation in collective centres, initial reception facilities and anchorage centres. The associated occurrence of infection is not to be blamed. Fugitives who belong to risk groups such as the elderly or people with pre-existing conditions must be given special protection. Numerous flats, holiday apartments and hotels are vacant throughout Germany. These rooms must be immediately activated and used by the responsible authorities for decentralised accommodation.

Restricted access to health care depending on the residence permit and entitlement to social benefits can be a matter of life and death in the current situation. We call for an immediate, nationwide opening of the health system and unbureaucratic access to regular care for all people. Illegalised people and people without health insurance must also be tested and, if necessary, treated immediately. It must be expressly guaranteed that sensitive data will not be transferred to the aliens’ registration office (suspension of §87 Residence Act). The costs for these urgently needed health services must of course be covered by public funds (e.g. handling in the sense of §19, §25, §69 Protection against infection law and application of the “emergency helper paragraph” §6a Asylum Seeker Benefits Act).

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees must immediately stop sending negative decisions. Due to closed counselling centres and limited visits to lawyers, it is currently hardly possible for refugees to take legal action against negative notifications in a timely manner.

All cuts in benefits under the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act must be lifted. Since counselling centres and law firms are gradually closing, access to effective legal counselling is no longer guaranteed.

We demand a stop to deportations and the blanket extension of all residence permits with immediate effect. With closed borders and worldwide travel warnings it is absurd to continue deportations. People in deportation custody must be released immediately.

Those who are currently on the Greek-Turkish border and in the camps on the Greek islands are exposed to hygienic conditions and psychological stress far from any standards. We demand the immediate evacuation of the people from Greece!

#LeaveNoOneBehind!