How the COVID-19 pandemic affected reception system in Poland, Hungary and Slovakia?
Facing the rapid spread of the disease, national authorities were responsible for ensuring safe conditions to the residents of reception, accommodation and detention centres. Although asylum seekers have been subject to the same rules and restrictions as nationals, which included, for example, curfews, restricted mobility, obligatory quarantine or testing etc, additional instructions on hygiene and restrictions have been implemented in reception and detention centres.
In Poland a range of preventive measures have been implemented in such centres in accordance with the recommendations of the Ministry of Health and the Main Sanitary Inspectorate. Additionally, the operator Petra Medica implemented its own internal procedures. Preventive measures included the suspension of visiting (of all visitors including NGOs and social workers, teachers etc), all interpersonal contacts and contacts with staff were limited to the necessary minimum, common spaces as kitchens, class rooms or play grounds were temporally closed. According to the Office for Foreigners the rate of infections among asylum seekers remain law. During the pandemic only one accommodation center Targówek Warsaw (closed in 2021 due to investment project) was under quarantine for the period between 7 June and 2 July 2020, where coronavirus infections were confirmed for 70 people (in 30 out of 36 families staying in the centre).
Similarly, in Slovakia preventive measures in both the reception and the accommodation centres were developed according to the ongoing epidemiological situation on the basis of the government’s resolutions, guidelines of the Chief Hygienist of the Slovak Republic, the Chief Hygienist of the Ministry of the Interior or regional hygienists. Reception of applicants has been adjusted as to avoid interaction between newly admitted applicants and those applicants who are already accommodated.
In Hungary government’s decrees authorized the National Directorate-General for Aliens Policing (NDGAP) to limit access to the reception facilities , and access to the centre for unaccompanied minors was limited upon the decision of the director of the centre. These rules also meant that asylum-seekers and beneficiaries of international protection, accommodated at those facilities, were not allowed to leave the centres.
Wearing protective masks was mandatory for everyone in reception and detention facilities in Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. Hand sanitisers, liquid for disinfecting surfaces, protective equipment as disposable face masks and gloves, were distributed by the staff. Asylum seekers have been continuously updated by social workers about regulations adopted against COVID-19.
More information is available in the report: The impact of coronavirus country measures on asylum and reception systems in Hungary, Slovakia and Poland