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Regional Bureau for Europe: COVID-19 Emergency Response, Update # 18 (17 - 30 September 2020)

Situation Report
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As COVID-19 infection rates continued to increase across the region, many countries have reacted by reinstating some movement limitations as well as targeted travel restrictions.

UNHCR staff across Europe has gradually moved back to working in office premises. 36 offices are now partially teleworking, while one remains in full teleworking mode as of 30 September.

UNHCR and partners’ physical access to persons of concern has improved compared to the onset of the pandemic, in compliance with COVID-19 preventive measures.

Operational Context

  • All 49 countries and one territory in the region have reported COVID-19 cases among the general population. To date, 34 countries have reported cases among persons of concern at some point, and some of the concerned individuals have already recovered. However, any figures or estimates need to be taken with caution due to varying approaches to testing, data segregation and reporting.
  • On 24 September, UNHCR called for urgent action in Greece to improve conditions and ensure humane solutions for asylum-seekers in the new Kara Tepe emergency site and in reception centres on the other Aegean Islands. UNHCR continues advocating for comprehensive solutions, calling for continuous European support and responsibility-sharing.
  • On 30 September, UNHCR issued a joint press release with IOM and UNICEF hailing the milestone reached as over 1,000 asylum-seekers have been relocated from Greece so far this year through the EU relocation programme.
  • As a result of the COVID-19 infection spike, movement restrictions and international travel advisories are being re-instated to prevent traveling from certain States or regions. As during the onset of the pandemic, these measures are implemented according to different criteria and in a largely non-coordinated manner. Local and selective lockdowns, like for example in Madrid, require offices to adapt working arrangements.
  • As of 30 September, 36 offices in the Europe region were partially teleworking, while one office was to shift from full telework to partial telework mode on 1 October. Meanwhile, field and on-site visits to reception centres have gradually resumed thanks to protection measures put in place in most of the countries.