Оn June 17, 2021, the COVID-19 Emergency Statelessness Fund (CESF) Consortium – an initiative of the Institute for Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI) – published a report on the impact of COVID-19 on stateless people around the world. It is noted that the lack of documents and a regular legal status often leads to denial of access to medical and social care. The authors of the report pay special attention to the Roma stateless persons in the Balkan countries – Northern Macedonia and Montenegro. Stateless Roma often live in poverty and usually experience significant difficulties in exercising the right to health care, emergency care and employment, in accessing documents and registering the birth of children. The pandemic, which has caused numerous failures in civil registration and other important procedures, has significantly increased the marginalization of Roma, with potentially disastrous consequences for their lives.
During the year of the pandemic, ADC Memorial also drew attention to violations of the rights and the deterioration of the situation of stateless persons. So, back in March 2020, ADC “Memorial” together with other human rights organizations called the Russian authorities to urgently release the prisoners from immigration detention centers. The detention centers for foreign citizens and stateless persons do not provide an opportunity to maintain social distance, so they make the detainees extremely vulnerable to Covid-19 infection, and the centers themselves are a place of potential spread of the epidemic. The centers became overcrowded for several months, as the borders were closed and air traffic was canceled, and Russian courts continued to issue expulsion orders even against stateless persons. In the summer and autumn of 2020, following the presidential decrees on the regularization of the situation of foreigners during the pandemic, the Federal Bailiff Service took measures to mass expel foreign citizens from immigration detention centers, so there were left only stateless persons and a small number of foreigners awaiting deportation. Because of the quarantine rules in, the stateless people were completely isolated there – all visits of relatives and meetings with lawyers were canceled. Many stateless persons continue to be in detained there so far.
ADC “Memorial” was among 84 representatives of civil society who applied a year ago to states, donors and other stakeholders to promote and protect the rights of stateless persons during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the moment, the world is experiencing the third wave of the pandemic, and this call remains relevant – to provide support and assistance to representatives of all vulnerable groups, regardless of their legal status and citizenship.