On 9 September 2020, in a statement, the Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, called on the Greek authorities to provide adequate support to all those affected by the fire in Moria. “The prompt intervention of the local authorities and firefighters helped avoid a tragedy. However, the situation remains tense, both as concerns residents of the hotspot and the local population living nearby, and it is important that the Greek authorities at all levels ensure the protection of asylum seekers and migrants from attacks and refrain from rhetoric that could heighten tensions,” she said. The Commissioner warned that the situation on other Greek islands which host refugees, asylum seekers and migrants is not much different from Lesvos, with the risk that there too the situation might further degenerate. She also highlighted that the incident in Moria shows the urgency of fundamentally rethinking the approach which has led to the overcrowded, inhumane and completely unsustainable situation in Moria and elsewhere on the Aegean islands. “Accommodating asylum seekers and migrants on ships or in other emergency shelters pending the refurbishment of Moria, and then simply continuing with business as usual cannot be the solution” the Commissioner added.
On 3 September 2020, the Commissioner addressed a letter to the Ministers of Home Affairs and for Inclusion, Social Security and Migration of Spain. In the letter, the Commissioner raised concerns about the situation of the migrants, including asylum seekers, who are accommodated in the bullring of Melilla, following the prolonged lockdown of Melilla’s reception centre for migrants due to the COVID-19 epidemic. The Commissioner was concerned about the substandard conditions in which around 500 people live, including several persons with potential international protection needs. She also addressed the situation of the persons placed in quarantine and whose condition appeared to be even more precarious, notably as regards access to toilets and showers, natural light and sufficient water and food, as well as access to asylum proceedings. In her letter the Commissioner urged the authorities to find alternatives to accommodating migrants, including asylum seekers, in the bullring. Noting two Supreme Court decisions of 29 July 2020 confirming that persons who requested asylum in Ceuta or Melilla have the right to freedom of movement in Spain, she stressed that transfers to the mainland, in particular of asylum seekers and vulnerable persons, should be extended in order to alleviate the pressure on Melilla’s limited reception capacity and provide more human rights compliant options. The Commissioner also expressed her dismay at continuing reports of persons drowning trying to reach the Spanish shores, especially the Canary Islands. While appreciating the valuable work of the Spanish search and rescue services, she drew the authorities’ attention to a Recommendation she issued in 2019 which provides guidance for the authorities on issues such as ensuring effective search and rescue, preventing refoulement and collective expulsions, and safeguarding human rights when co-operating with third countries. Read the reply of the Minister of Home Affairs of Spain.