Portugal's policy: the needed solidarity for migrants

by DiEM25 Portugal

‘The preservation of human lives is at stake’

In DiEM25 we promote an open Europe, recognising fences and borders as signs of weakness that spread insecurity in the name of security. As such, we are calling for all European states to regularise all migrants and asylum seekers so that they have access to social services and healthcare during the pandemic. Without these measures, we can expect a further rapid-fire spread of coronavirus.
Humanity is fighting an invisible enemy, the coronavirus. We have never been so vulnerable and, at the same time, in need to be present with our common humanity. Faced with a virus that knows no borders, ethnicity, religions, beliefs, sexual options or political tendencies, never has solidarity and unity among people been so necessary to fight this common enemy. Concrete actions taken at opportune moments will dictate the degree of human lives lost during this crisis.
Yesterday, on March 28th, Portugal published a decree regularising all migrants who had pending residence and asylum applications, promoting equal access to social services and support, as well as to the National Health Service. The decree begins by stating that this measure is necessary in order to reduce the risks to public health, both for workers of the Foreigners and Borders Service and for the users of these services themselves: “The policy also aims to reduce contagion risk by minimising contact between border control service staff and applicants”, the statement said.
The Minister of Internal Affairs says that this action is “the duty” of a “solidary society in times of crisis”. Under this policy, migrants are granted access to the national health service, welfare benefits, bank accounts, as well as work and rental contracts.
It is urgent that this action spread at a greater speed than the virus itself. The suspension of asylum applications and the relocation of asylum seekers has contributed to a volatile situation, with states such as Greece on the brink of breaking international law. As a UNHRC report states, governments may implement additional health and safety measures during the coronavirus crisis, but additional measures cannot be used to deny asylum or relocate migrants without appropriate evidence.
We call on the governments of other countries to follow Portugal’s lead and grant refugees and migrants social services and healthcare. The preservation of human lives, and perhaps our very own humanity, is at stake.
Every minute counts. The time to act is NOW!

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