On 15 April 2015, UNHCR published ‘Practical Recommendations and Good Practice to Address Protection Concerns in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic’, which aims to offer Governments practical considerations and concrete advice in response to Covid-19 while ensuring respect for international refugee law.

The guidance draws on UNHCR’s operational experience in managing the arrival of asylum seekers in emergency scenarios to help states to adapt quickly to the present challenges. In respect of ensuring access to territory and managing the arrival of asylum-seekers in a safe manner, UNHCR recommends the increased use of medical screenings and testing, the use of quarantine implemented in a non-discriminatory and proportionate manner, and an exemption for asylum seekers to enter states where border closures have been introduced.

In terms of maintaining basic registration and documentation while protecting the health of government personnel and asylum applicants, recommendations include the simplification of the asylum registration process, with a focus on obtaining only essential data. Moreover, it is recommended that States introduce enhanced hygiene measures and encourage the use of online or telephone support for asylum applicants.

UNHCR also recommends ways in which to manage the backlog of asylum applications in cases where States’ asylum procedures are ongoing as well as where asylum procedures have been suspended. In all cases UNHCR recommends: procedural safeguards and fairness are observed to protect the rights of applicants; all stakeholders are informed and trained on the amended measures; and any suspension of asylum procedures is time-bound and regularly reviewed.

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