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Romania: supporting migrants in times of pandemic

Refugees and beneficiaries of international protection are among the most vulnerable groups facing the Covid-19 outbreak. In Romania, civil society organizations continue to work with the state, and pressuring the state, to provide the necessary supports to the migrants.

The emergency measures announced by the Government are ensuring access to healthcare services related to the pandemic for all persons that are present on the territory of Romania, no matter their legal status. While the state borders are generally closed for foreigners, among the exceptions in place there is the right of people in search of international protection to enter the country. All types of residency permits were automatically extended during the emergency situation. These are minimal measures aiming at safeguarding the rights of migrants.

Most beneficiaries of international protection reside in centers administrated by the Minister of Interior, or are living in communities. They still receive support from NGOs, in most case financed by AMIF. It is not yet clear how flexible the financing will be during this times, which is a cause of concern. 

Civil society organizations, members of the Coalition for the Rights of Migrants and Refugees (CDMiR – Coaliția pentru Drepturile Migranților șiRefugiaților, a platform supported by the NIEM project), are reporting difficulties in continuing their activities but also resilience in these dire times. Most cultural and outdoor activities have been cancelled, due to social isolation measures imposed by the authorities. Legal and psychological counseling is still offered but at distance, by phone or over the Internet. CSOs are actively translating the official information, advising refugees about their obligations, how to fill in necessary forms for going outside, and what are the opportunities available.

Access to work is problematic for most migrants, which is putting additional pressure on their already limited resources. In all six cities where the centers are located, the local organizations have organized donations of basic food supplies for the residents of the center, to compensate for the lack of income.

Using the evidence from the ground, the Coalition drafted a letter to the Minister of Interior, underlining additional measures needed to support the migrants in Romania, and, why not, to integrate them in the efforts to fight the pandemic. The recommended measures are organized on four directions:

•    Inclusion of migrants and refugees in all strategies and measures adopted by central and local authorities in the field of prevention of the spread of COVID-19 infections and of the protection of public health.
•    Translation into English of the public communications issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labor regarding the recommendations and measures adopted to prevent the spread of the COVID 19 epidemic, as well as the widespread dissemination of such translations (including statements requested by the authorities);
•    Supplementing the actions to inform foreign citizens and employers about their rights and obligations in the field of work and strengthening the mechanisms of control and notification of possible abuses or exploitation situations.
•    Flexibility of programs funded through the European Funds for Asylum, Migration and Integration (FAMI) to enable the adoption of a set of urgent measures to respond to the needs arising or exacerbated as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic.

The full letter (in Romanian) is available on the website of the Center for Public Innovation, the NIEM partner in Romania.

Ovidiu Voicu
The Center for Public Innovation