10 August 2020
The UK Home Office is set to deport up to 20 asylum-seekers to France and Germany this week, despite concerns that it may contribute to the spread of coronavirus. Campaigners suspect that the rush to restart removals under the EU's 'Dublin' system relates to the UK's final departure from the EU at the end of this year, with no replacement agreement on asylum matters in sight.
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Home Office restarts deportation of asylum seekers despite coronavirus fears (Independent, link):
"Asylum seekers are set to be deported for the first time since coronavirus took hold in the UK, prompting concerns that the Home Office is “playing politics with public health”.
Up to 20 asylum seekers are scheduled to be deported to France and Germany on Wednesday under the Dublin regulation, a law that requires asylum seekers to claim asylum in the first safe country they arrive in.
The Independent understands that there will be no testing for deportees or immigration escorts on departure or arrival, raising concerns that the move could risk spreading Covid-19 between countries.
Ministers have already been criticised for charter flights that have departed from the UK to eastern European countries during the lockdown, but this is the first removal of asylum seekers since the pandemic began.
Celia Clarke, director of Bail for Immigration Detainees, speculated that the move may be part of a strategy to “rush through” as many removals as possible under Dublin regulations, because the practice will likely cease to be part of UK law after the Brexit date.
“This utterly reckless step risks spreading coronavirus across borders. As so often happens, immigration enforcement is being prioritised over public health,” she added."
The USA has also continued to deport people throughout the pandemic, raising the risk of contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in Central and South America and the Carribean, where many of the expulsion flights are headed.
See: US deportation flights risk spreading coronavirus globally (The World, link)
"“From a public health and medical perspective, it's shocking that these deportations are continuing,” said Michele Heisler, medical director at the US-based nonprofit Physicians for Human Rights and a professor of internal medicine and public health at the University of Michigan.
The flights do not only put people in deportation proceedings at risk, but also threaten to spread the coronavirus to countries ill-equipped to deal with the disease."
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