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IASC Interim Guidance COVID-19: Focus on Persons Deprived of Their Liberty, March 2020

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COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic and as it is spreading, identified vulnerabilities such as the situation of persons deprived of their liberty in prisons, administrative detention centres, immigration detention centres and drug rehabilitation centres, require a specific focus.

Persons deprived of their liberty face higher vulnerabilities as the spread of the virus can expand rapidly due to the usually high concentration of persons deprived of their liberty in confined spaces and to the restricted access to hygiene and health care in some contexts. International standards highlight that states should ensure that persons in detention have access to the same standard of health care as is available in the community, and that this applies to all persons regardless of citizenship, nationality or migration status.

Maintaining health in detention centres is in the interest of the persons deprived of their liberty as well as of the staff of the facility and the community. The state has the obligation, according to international human rights law, to ensure the health care of people in places of detention. If the risks related to the virus in places of detention are not addressed, the outbreak can also widen spread to the general public.

This document has a series of messages that aim at addressing the specific issues of persons deprived of their liberty with the responsible services and ministries (Ministry of Justice/Ministry of Interior/Ministry of Health/Agencies in charge of migration, asylum and rehabilitation centres, etc.).