(Ethiopia and Eritrea) Ethiopia – Unaccompanied Eritrean Children at Risk (ENG)

Originally published by Human Rights Watch on 20 April 2020

Summary

The Ethiopian government’s changes to asylum procedures for Eritreans undermines their access to asylum and denies unaccompanied children necessary protection. The changes include not allowing all Eritrean refugees, including unaccompanied children, to apply for asylum, which leaves them without protection services or refugee camp accommodations. Ethiopia currently hosts 171,876 Eritrean refugees, and 44% of the Eritrean refugees in the Tigray camps (4 of 6 refugee camps in Ethiopia) are children.
In early March, Ethiopian authorities announced they would close one of the Tigray camps, where 26,652 Eritreans live, including about 1,600 unaccompanied children. The closure is on hold because of COVID-19 but relocations could begin in late April.

READ MORE

Southeast Asia Speeds Up Prison Releases to Stave Off Coronavirus

Originally published by Zsombor Peter – Voice of America on 20 Apr 2020

Summary

Southeast Asian nations are joining a growing list of countries around the world rushing to release prisoners from overcrowded jails in the hopes of warding off new outbreaks of COVID-19, though some nations are hesitating.

Rights groups and health experts say the crowded cells and threadbare medical wards of many prisons in the region make ideal breeding grounds for the highly contagious coronavirus. Many of those groups have joined the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in calling on countries to release their most at-risk inmates — namely the sick and elderly — to cut the odds of an outbreak. They also suggest prioritizing prisoners nearing the end of their sentences and those convicted or charged with non-violent crimes.

For example, Indonesia started freeing some 30,000 prisoners, about 10% of its prison population, because of the risks of coronavirus in early April. Thailand says it has doubled the pace at which it is granting prisoners early release as well. Myanmar announced it would be freeing nearly 25,000 prisoners, more than a quarter of its prison population, as part of its largest ever annual New Year amnesty.

Unfortunately, other countries in the region are cramming even more people into already overcrowded jails by arresting scores for violating lockdown or curfew rules imposed to stem the spread of the virus. Malaysia, with prisons running at 142% capacity, has arrested thousands of people for breaking movement restrictions over the past month.

The article notes that the Philippines worries rights groups most of all, as they have by some measures the most overcrowded prison system in the world and thousands have been arrested for breaking lockdown and curfew rules since the COVID-19 outbreak. Fortunately, lawmakers and prison officials in the Philippines have expressed support for releasing inmates.

READ MORE

Bangladesh to release selective prisoners in late April

Originally published by Dhaka Tribune on 17 Apr 2020

Summary

As part of its efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Bangladesh government is considering the release of prisoners who have been jailed for minor offenses or who have completed most of their jail terms.

Specifically, around 800 prisoners who have already served around 20 years of their prison terms will be considered for release. Additionally, jail authorities are also preparing a separate list of prisoners who have been jailed for minor offenses (sentenced to a term of one year or less) or who are facing trial. The number of prisoners in that category is estimated to be around 3,000. The government expects these prisoners to be released by the end of April.

The government decided to make this move after considering the overcrowded situation in most jails in Bangladesh, as overcrowded prisons are vulnerable to the spread of the disease.

As of March, there were about 90,000 prisoners at 68 prisons across Bangladesh, against a capacity of only 41,000 inmates.

READ MORE

“It’s gonna wipe us out” Prisoners relay COVID-19 fears

Originally published by EyeWitness News on 15 Apr 2020

Summary

Bahamas’ sole prison, the Fox Hill Road facility, has been on lockdown since mid-March after Bahamas recorded its first COVID-19 case. At this time all visitations, commissary and public activities are suspended.

While the prison provides inmates with basic food and water, family and friends typically provide prisoners with funds so that prisoners can order additional or different food and water, personal hygiene items, and other goods. However, because of COVID-19, the public is unable to transfer additional funds to prisoners. Therefore, prisoners with low or no funds are unable to buy additional and sometimes essential food and goods.

In addition, there are allegations from prisoners and their families that even prisoners with funds are not able to access necessary goods because there is low stock at the prison’s commissary. This is particularly problematic for prisoners with special diets or needs.

READ MORE

In overcrowded cells, Bahrain’s political prisoners fear coronavirus threat

Originally published by Reuters – Aziz El Yaakoubi on 08 Apr 2020

Summary

The article notes that Bahrain has freed some prisoners considered at risk, such as pregnant women, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the 1,500 freed so far exclude individuals jailed on national security grounds. This is unfortunate because Bahrain has sentenced hundreds of opposition politicians, activists, journalists and human rights defenders in mass trials. As a result, rights groups, including Amnesty International, last week jointly called on Bahraini authorities to release those who “peacefully exercised their rights to freedom of expression”, particularly elderly prisoners or those with existing health conditions.

In response, the government said it is “absolutely committed” to protecting those in its prison system, and that it does test the prison population regularly. Other precautionary steps that they have taken include banning family visits. To date, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Bahrain’s prisons.

READ MORE

Epidemiology of COVID-19 Among Children in China

Originally published by American Academy of Pediatrics on 07 April 2020

Summary

This is a study that examined the epidemiological characteristics and transmission of pediatric patients with COVID-19 in China. The study found that children at all ages were susceptible to COVID-19. The study also slightly saw more boys affected with COVID-19, however, no significant gender was observed during the study.

Children affected with COVID-19 were also less severe than adults who were affected with COVID-19, however infants were more vulnerable to 2019-nCoV infection. The study also concluded strong evidence for human-to-human transmission.

READ MORE

Asia: Reduce Prison Populations Facing COVID-19

Originally published by Human Rights Watch on 05 Apr 2020

Summary

This article provides a general call for the release of prisoners in Asia, and provides a number of categories of prisoners that this release should apply to. Additionally, this article provides a number of prevention measures that prison authorities should take to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

READ MORE

COVID-19 Visits at state prison suspended indefinitely

Originally published by Dominica News Online on 05 April 2020

Summary

Visitation at the Dominica State Prison has been suspended indefinitely due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. In lieu of visits, prisoners are permitted to make more calls to their relatives than usual.

Other measures include washing any food or goods provided by visitors before giving the goods or food to prisoners, body temperature checks for anyone entering the prison, provision of hand sanitizer, additional sinks, and face basins. Officers are also encouraged to wear masks and gloves.

READ MORE

Protecting the Caribbean’s most vulnerable people in the face of COVID-19

Originally published by United Nations News on 31 Mar 2020

Summary

The United Nations (UN) is working with ministries across the Caribbean to identify and develop alternative accessible distance learning methods, for example via television and radio, to ensure that all children have access to quality education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The article discusses how previous humanitarian crises have shown children to be increasingly vulnerable to mistreatment, violence, and exploitation. With temporary school closures occurring across the Caribbean, not all children may have access to effective distance learning.

READ MORE

Sistema penitenciario salvadoreño y prevención del COVID-19

Originally published by Diario El Mundo on 29 March 2020

Summary

The author recommends to follow the provisions issued by the World Health Organization for the preparation, prevention and control of COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention.

Also, the author suggests to implement other legal measures such as home detention using electronic anklets, in addition to conditional suspension of the execution of resolutions and conditional release, also using electronic anklets. In addition, regarding the pardons, the Legislative Assembly should prioritize the groups at risk.

READ MORE

En prison, le danger vient de l’extérieur

Originally published by L’Echo on 28 Mar 2020

Summary

This article gives an account of measures undertaken in Belgian prisons to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within facilities, as well as some of the challenges, such as shortages of PPE and difficulties implementing social distancing practices in confinement. It also describes some of the mental health impacts on detainees and societal ramifications of restricting visitations. Finally, the article provides an overview of some of the measures  taken by Government , such as the release of prisoners convicted for certain minor offences. 

READ MORE

Cameroon Should Protect Prison Population from COVID-19

Originally published by Human Rights Watch on 26 Mar 2020

Summary

Cameroon’s prisons are notoriously overcrowded, making social distancing and self isolation challenging to implement. In the wake of the epidemic, Cameroonian authorities are limiting prison visits and asking visitors to wash their hands. However, local lawyers argue that these measures are insufficient and that authorities should release individuals who are in pretrial detention on public safety grounds.

READ MORE

Ethiopia pardons more than 4,000 prisoners to help prevent coronavirus spread

Originally published by CNN, Bukola Adebayo on 25 March 2020

Summary

This article discusses the decision of Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewede to pardon 4,011 prisoners in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within the country. The directive from the Ethiopian leader was limited to the release of only prisoners given a sentence of three years for minor crimes and those with impending release dates. At the orders issuance, Ethiopia maintained a small infection rate, with only 12 confirmed cases according to the WHO. However, the decision can be understood as both a part of Ethiopia’s developing social distancing policies and attempts to conserve funds and non-financial resources.

READ MORE

Commissioner calls for release of immigration detainees while Covid-19 crisis continues

Originally published by Commissioner for Human Rights on 25 March 2020

Summary

Statement from the Commissioner for Human Rights to review the situation of rejected asylum seekers and irregular migrants in immigration detention. Notes that immigration detention facilities generally provide poor opportunities for social distancing and other measures required to protect against COVID-19 infection. The Commissioner calls for the release of immigration detainees in the wake of the pandemic. Also notes that European Members should ensure that those released from detention are given appropriate access to accommodations and basic healthcare services.

READ MORE

Why some Canadian prisoners should be released during the coronavirus pandemic

In summary, the article advocates creative solutions with detainees. It advocates for house arrest, promises to appear in court, phone check-ins, intermittent sentences (i.e., weekend jail) and other creative solutions to decarcerate. For those remaining in custody, the article recommends implementing unlimited abilities for detainees to call their families for free, access to free sanitation products, suspending court dockets and dropping charges wherever possible.

READ MORE

Coronavirus: Egypt’s Prisons Could Spare Disaster with Conditional Releases

Originally published by Human Rights Watch on 15 March 2020

Summary

Egypt’s prisons are known to be overcrowded, dirty and unhygienic putting the health and lives of prisoners at risk. There is little to no information released by the government as to the demographics of prison populations. The severe overcrowding and unhealthy conditions mean that the system is unprepared for a pandemic such as COVID-19. Releasing prisoners detained for non-violent protest, ending excessive pre-trial detention and releasing prisoners near the end of their sentences or with severe and terminal illnesses could alleviate health problems and prevent further deterioration of the situation.

READ MORE

Cárceles en El Salvador restringen acceso por Covid-19

Originally published by Prensa Latina on 13 March 2020

Summary

The Head of the General Direction of Criminal Centers mentioned that they will have a control at the entrance of each prison with medical personnel, which will make an assessment of the custodian and of the administrative staff. Also, he mentioned that the visits will be allowed only to guarantee access to justice and the hearings of the prisoners will be virtual.

READ MORE

School trip to Dominican orphanage cancelled over coronavirus fears

Originally published by CBC on 04 March 2020

Summary

Two Ottawa high schools cancelled a humanitarian trip to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. On this trip, students intended on volunteering at the orphanage and helping to renovate a local school. The students also intended on donating money, toys, books, clothing and other goods to children at the orphanages.

It is unclear from the article if the students were still able to donate the goods to children in the orphanage or if renovation projects would be put on hold due to lack of volunteers.

READ MORE