Benin, which as of 25 June 2021 had recorded more than 8,000 COVID-19 cases and 104 deaths, launched a national vaccination campaign in March 2021 with support from the COVAX Facility. However, it is unclear if migrants, refugees, or other non-citizens are included in the vaccination campaign or whether the country has taken any specific measures to safeguard those populations.
The GDP has been unable to establish the extent to which migration-related detention measures are used in Benin as part of immigration enforcement procedures. There is also no publicly available information concerning COVID-19 related measures taken for those in immigration or police custody.
According to UNHCR data, in 2020, there were 1,401 refugees and 464 asylum seekers in the country and 1,238 refugees and 373 asylum-seekers in 2019. The country has ratified several international human rights treaties including the Convention against Torture; the Convention on the Rights of the Child and most recently in July 2018, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. In its concluding observations in 2019, the Committee against Torture recommended that the country: (a) “improve material conditions in all places of detention, ensuring that prisoners receive the medical care and medicines necessary for their health in a timely manner and without charge, have access to nutritional and sufficient food, and enjoy adequate sanitary conditions and sufficient bedding; (b) take measures to end prison overcrowding by making greater use of alternatives to detention.”
The country took some measures to prevent COVID outbreaks in prisons, with assistance from non-governmental actors. In May 2020, a private foundation donated 130 boxes of face masks, 20 disinfectant sprays, 100 cans of bleach, 50 cans of soap, and 50 bottles of hydroalcoholic gel to the country’s prison administration. In addition, on 10 June 2020, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) gave Benin’s prison authority 110 hand-washing stations, 5,000 liters of bleach, 2,000 liters of hydroalcoholic gel and the ingredients necessary to make 30,000 liters of soap. The UNDP has estimated Benin’s prison occupancy rate as being as high as 170 percent capacity, which has helped lead to poor hygiene and a heightened risk of COVID-19 transmission. In October 2020, the UNDP deployed ten UN volunteers, including seven doctors and three psychologists, in Benin’s prisons to improve the quality of health services.
- UNHCR, “Refugee Data Finder: Benin,” accessed on 25 June 2021, https://www.unhcr.org/refugee-statistics/download/?url=oNgC7e
- Worldometer, “COVID-19: Benin,” 25 June 2019, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/benin/
- United Nations Sustainable Development Group, “In Benin, the National COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign has Launched,” 31 March 2021, https://unsdg.un.org/latest/stories/benin-national-covid-19-vaccination-campaign-has-launched
- Committee against Torture, “Concluding Observations on the Third Periodic Report of Benin,” CAT/C/BEN/CO/3, 4 June 2019, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CAT%2fC%2fBEN%2fCO%2f3&Lang=en
- Janviergbedo, “Lutte Contre la COVID-19: La Fondation Mtn Fait Don à l’Agence Pénitentiaire,” Matin Libre, 27 May 2020, https://matinlibre.com/2020/05/27/lutte-contre-la-covid-19-la-fondation-mtn-fait-don-a-lagence-penitentiaire/
- A. P. Aguehounde, “Don du Pnud pour la Lutte Contre le COVID-19: u Matériel de Protection au Profit des Prisons,” 11 June 2020, https://lanationbenin.info/don-du-pnud-pour-la-lutte-contre-le-covid-19-du-materiel-de-protection-au-profit-des-prisons/
- UNDP, “Protéger les Droits des Détenus au Bénin,” 27 April 2021, https://www.bj.undp.org/content/benin/fr/home/presscenter/articles/proteger-les-droits-des-detenus-au-benin.html
- Volunteer Doctor Testing a New Prisoner for COVID-19, (UNDP, “Protéger les Droits des Détenus au Bénin,” 27 April 2021, https://tinyurl.com/4rfdjdv8)