Human Rights Mechanisms in the Context of COVID-19

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to UNHCR operations, Bureau and Divisions on how to seek immediate interventions of United Nations human rights bodies as needed in the context of COVID-19 responses.

Such interventions could be useful to support UNHCR’s efforts to prevent any irreparable harm to asylum-seekers, refugees, stateless and internally displaced persons in the context of measures taken in response to COVID-19, including but not limited to access to asylum and instances of refoulement. The document also highlights ways in which operations may already be incorporating the strategic use of human rights mechanisms in their protection strategies in the medium and longer term, which could mitigate risk of long-term loss of protection space resulting from measures taken in response to COVID-19.

Human rights of forcibly displaced and stateless persons in the context of COVID-19 related measures may be particularly affected in, inter alia, the following areas: Access to asylum; non-refoulement, restrictions on freedom of movement; quarantine/detention measures and housing; conditions in detention centers and camps; access to health services/systems; access to adequate water and sanitation facilities; racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The mechanisms highlighted below, as well as the resources listed in annex, recall some of the tools available to UNHCR to address these protection challenges through the human rights system, where relevant and strategic.