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COVID-19 protection 'inadequate' at German refugee home

May 11, 2020

A pregnant woman appealed to be released from the shelter, saying it was impossible to socially distance in the crowded facility. The court in Münster agreed — criticizing the double standard in rules at refugee homes.

The court in Münster
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Gentsch

A pregnant woman and her husband living at a shared accommodation for asylum seekers not adequately protected from contracting COVID-19, a German court ruled on Monday.

The couple will no longer be required to live at the facility for asylum seekers, located in the town of Rheine in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Read more: Coronavirus hero: Coping with COVID-19 threat in a Berlin refugee home

In their emergency appeal to the court, the couple raised numerous health concerns, arguing that it wasn't possible to adhere to social distancing rules inside the cramped facility.

They reported having to share sanitary facilities with other residents, noting that the residents weren't provided with enough cleaning supplies.

"They feared that they would become infected with the coronavirus by continuing to stay at the reception center," the Administrative Court in Münster said.

Refugees at risk

In its decision, the court said that local authorities were unable to disprove the couple's claims, leading the court to assume "the hygienic conditions were inadequate in this area."

The court also appeared to admonish the treatment of asylum seekers, noting that the conditions that they're being asked to live in go against the COVID-19 social distancing rules set out by the state.

"It would be inconsistent with the rules in the [coronavirus] regulations if accommodations for asylum seekers were treated differently," the court said.

Fear grips refugees in Germany

Under current coronavirus regulations, people are advised to remain at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart and to wear face masks in shops and on public transportation.

Read more: Coronavirus a stress test for Germany's refugee homes

Asylum seekers in Germany are required to live in "reception centers" or shared accommodations during their asylum application. Many live with several hundred other inhabitants, with some sharing rooms with strangers. 

The conditions and lack of privacy in Germany's facilities for asylum seekers have long been criticized by refugee and immigrant rights groups.

The coronavirus outbreak has increased these concerns. Outbreaks at refugee centers have already reported in Berlin, Bonn and other towns and cities across Germany.Every evening, DW sends out a selection of the day's news and features. Sign up here.