The Council of Europe’s Intercultural Cities Initiative offers examples how countries can include immigrants and asylum seekers during the global Covid health crisis.

The city of Geneva in Switzerland extended emergency social services to the undocumented.

The regional government of Campania in Italy offered special funding to African immigrants who worked in agriculture to fund temporary housing and other social support services.

Portugal extended citizenship rights to all applying for immigrant status including asylum seekers. The Minister of Internal Affairs, Eduardo Cabrita said, “Ensuring migrant citizens’ access to health, social security and job and housing stability is a duty of a solidarity society in times of crisis.”

The relatively better health progress in Portugal compared to nearby Spain has been attributed to a number of factors: longer preparation time and citizen participation during the lock down; less political fragmentation, better and centralized health care system and an earlier lock down before the infections began to spread.

The Council of Europe has issued guidance to all 47 member Council states on respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The areas covered in this guidance are:

Derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights in times of emergency

Respect for the rule of law and democratic principles in times of emergency, including limits on the scope and duration of emergency measures

Fundamental human rights standards including freedom of expression, privacy and data protection, protection of vulnerable groups from discrimination and the right to education

Protection from crime and the protection of victims of crime, in particular regarding gender-based violence.