The Republic of Equatorial Guinea, a small country that is located on the west coast of Central Africa that also includes nearby islands, has a population of approximately 1.4 million people. As of 9 March 2021, it had recorded 6,371 cases and 96 COVID-19 deaths. On 22 March 2020, a week after the first case of the virus was confirmed in the capital Malabo, which is located on the islands of Bioko, the country declared a state of alarm and implemented a series of security measures, including border closures, intended to contain the spread of the virus. Certain measures have since been lifted and the borders have been reopened with additional requirements for arriving passengers, including having proof of a negative PCR test taken no longer than 48 hours prior; undergoing a rapid COVID-19 test upon arrival; staying in quarantine for 5 days and taking an additional test once the five days have passed.
In late July 2020, Vietnamese migrants working at Sendje Hydropower Plant tested positive and were repatriated to Vietnam. According to Reuters, of the 220 onboard the aircraft, 140 had tested positive for the virus.
The country does not appear to host many refugees. However, according to UNHCR, the country has nationals abroad who are recognised as people requiring international protection. Observers have long condemned the authoritarian government of committing widespread human rights abuses. The UN refugee agency reports that as of 2019, there were 156 mandate refugees and 167 asylum seekers from Equatorial Guinea around the world.
While the country is not a party to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, in 2002 it ratified both the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as well as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In 2019 UNHCR welcomed Equatorial Guinea’s accession to the Kampala Convention on internally displaced persons, becoming the 29th African Union member state to do so.
According to the U.S. State Department, during 2019 both legal and irregular immigrants were arbitrarily arrested, physically abused, detained, and extorted in some cases. It also states that the government was uncooperative in granting protection to forcibly displaced populations registered with the UNHCR. “Diplomatic representatives in the country criticized the government for the harassment, abuse, extortion, and detention of foreign nationals and for not renewing residence and work permits in a timely manner, making foreign nationals vulnerable to abuse.”
However, the GDP has been unable to establish the extent to which detention facilities are used in Equatorial Guinea as part of immigration enforcement procedures or to obtain details on COVID-19 related measures taken to safeguard people in immigration custody. The country’s laws, however, provide enforcement measures and criminal penalties for immigraiton violations. According to Article 46(a) of Organic Law Number 3/2010 of 30 May, Regulating the Rights of Foreigners in Equatorial Guinea (Ley Orgánica Número 3/2010, de fecha 30 de mayo, Reguladora del Derecho de Extranjería en Guinea Ecuatorial), it is a “serious offence” to be in an irregular situation in Equatorial Guinea. Article 48 provides fines for serious offences from “500.001 F.cfas to 3.000.000 of F.cfas.” In addition, under Article 50(1), non-citizens can be expelled from the country for committing “serious offences,” including for being in the country without authorisation. Moreover, according to Article 51(1), people who are expelled from the country under this law are prohibited from re-entering for a period of 10 to 15 years.
Observers have reported a grim picture of Equatorial Guinea’s prisons and detention centres. The UN Human Rights Committee noted in 2019 concern about overcrowding in prisons with no separation of men, women and minors, no food provision, poor sanitary and healthcare conditions, arbitrary arrests and imprisonments, and incommunicado detention. Amnesty International documented extensive torture of prisoners between the years 1988 and 2009, and the U.S. State Department reported in 2019 “harsh and life threatening” conditions “due to abuse, overcrowding, disease, inadequate food, poorly trained staff, and lack of medical care.” There have also been numerous reports about the spread of diseases–including malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS–posing a serious problem in prisons, suggesting vulnerability to COVID-19 outbreaks.
On 24 April 2020, the political party, “Convergencia Para la Democracia Social” called on the government to decongest police stations and penitentiaries. It also called for the release of those detained for non-violent offences and political prisoners. A day earlier, a nurse was released from the Black Beach prison after having been imprisoned for telling a friend via Whatsapp that the hospital where coronavirus patients were being treated had no oxygen.
On 17 February 2020, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has been in office since 1982, received the first dose of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine. On this occasion, the president appealed to the entire population to get vaccinated. 100,000 Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine doses were donated by the Chinese government to certain African countries, including Equatorial Guinea.
- Worldometer, “Equatorial Guinea: Coronavirus Cases,” 9 March 2021, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/equatorial-guinea/
- Human Rights Watch, “Equatorial Guinea,” https://www.hrw.org/africa/equatorial-guinea
- France 24, “China Donates 100,000 Covid Vaccines to Equatorial Guinea,” 11 February 2021, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210211-china-donates-100-000-covid-vaccines-to-equatorial-guinea
- UNHCR, “UNHCR Welcomes Equatorial Guinea’s Accession to Kampala Convention on IDP’s,” 30 October 2019, https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2019/10/5db9c50d4/unhcr-welcomes-equatorial-guineas-accession-kampala-convention-idps.html
- UNHCR, “Refugee Data Finder,” accessed on 9 March 2021, https://www.unhcr.org/refugee-statistics/download/?url=9uYIaR
- J. Tasamba, “Equatorial Guinea Declares State of Alarm over COVID-19,” Agencia Andalou, 22 March 2020, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/equatorial-guinea-declares-state-of-alarm-over-covid-19/1774801
- Garda, “Equatorial Guinea: Authorities Amend COVID-19 Restrictions Nationwide from Feb. 9; 1900-0600 curfew introduced /update 14,” 10 February 2021, https://www.garda.com/crisis24/news-alerts/441046/equatorial-guinea-authorities-amend-covid-19-restrictions-nationwide-from-feb-9-1900-0600-curfew-introduced-update-14
- CPDS, “COMUNICADO MUY URGENTE: CPDS Pide la Liberación de Presos Debido al Brusco Aumento del Número de Infectados en Guinea Ecuatorial,” 24 April 2020, http://www.cpdsge.org/2020/04/24/comunicado-muy-urgente-cpds-pide-la-liberacion-de-presos-debido-al-brusco-aumento-del-numero-de-infectados-en-guinea-ecuatorial/
- Le Figaro, “Guinée Equatoriale: Liberté Provisoire Pour une Infirmière Qui Avait Critiqué l’Hôpital,” 23 April 2020, https://www.lefigaro.fr/international/guinee-equatoriale-liberte-provisoire-pour-une-infirmiere-qui-avait-critique-l-hopital-20200423
- Daily News Egypt, “Equatorial Guinea President Receives 1st Dose of Chinese COVID-19 Vaccine,” 17 February 2021, https://dailynewsegypt.com/2021/02/17/equatorial-guinea-president-receives-1st-dose-of-chinese-covid-19-vaccine/
- Government of Equatorial Guinea, “Ley Orgánica 3/2010 Reguladora del Derecho de Extranjería en Guinea Ecuatorial,” accessed on 9 March 2021, http://cesge.org/index.php/leyes/category/4-civil
- United States Department of State, “2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Equatorial Guinea,” https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/equatorial-guinea/
- P. Nguyen, “Vietnam Brings 140 Virus-hit Workers Home on Rare Rescue Flight from Africa,” Reuters, 29 July 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-vietnam-equatorial-idUSKCN24U21G
- UN Human Rights Committee, “Concluding Observations on Equatorial Guinea in the Absence of its Initial Report,” 22 August 2019, https://bit.ly/3clPi27