28 July 2020
Responding to the Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, an official from an international organisation, verified by the GDP, reported that in Sierra Leone, immigration detainees had not been released from detention and have not been tested for Covid-19. In addition, the source mentioned that the IOM assisted voluntary return and reintegration program had been suspended for the time being, and so no returns were conducted. However, the country’s international airport reopened commercial flights on 22 July. All Africa reported that in preparing for re-opening the airport, the aviation sector, public health authorities, and partners, such as WHO and IOM, are working closely to mitigate the risk of transmission of Covid-19 among passengers as well as staff and service providers at the facility. The country has not implemented policy changes, but the official said that migrants had been stopped from entering the country at the borders.
According to a mid-April UNHCR report on West & Central Africa, due to Covid-19, Sierra Leone has closed its borders but persons still have access to asylum registration. While freedom of movement has been suspended in the country, persons of concern to the UNHCR reportedly have access to health services.
As regards the country’s prisons, on 17 June, authorities reported that 30 detainees contracted the disease at the Pademba Road prison after the arrival of a new prisoner. Prisoners were reportedly left without adequate water supply for 10 days in June which meant that they could not wash their hands or flush toilets. Prisoners were forced to urinate and defecate inside cell toilets and then forced to sleep in those cells without fresh air. At the end of April, a riot broke out in Pademba Prison and 7 persons died, including 5 prisoners and 2 staff members. Authorities have described the riot as an escape attempt. Le Figaro reported that the riot broke out after the announcement by the Minister of Justice that one of the prisons’ detainees had tested positive for Covid-19.
- Anonymous International Organisation Official, Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, 19 July 2020.
- UNHCR, “UNHCR West & Central Africa - Impact of Covid-19 on Protection,” 15 April 2020, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/75708
- WHO, “Sierra leone on the Ready to Reopen Airport to Passenger Flights,” 21 July 2020, https://www.afro.who.int/news/sierra-leone-ready-reopen-airport-passenger-flights
- A. R. Thomas, “Acute Water Shortage at Pademba Road Prisons as Number of Covid-19 Cases Rises,” Sierra Leone Telegraph, 17 June 2020, https://www.thesierraleonetelegraph.com/acute-water-shortage-at-pademba-road-prisons-as-number-of-covid-19-cases-rises/
- Le Figaro, “Sierra Leone: 7 Morts au Cours d’une Tentative d’Evasion d’une Prison de Freetown,” 29 April 2020, https://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/sierra-leone-7-morts-au-cours-d-une-tentative-d-evasion-d-une-prison-de-freetown-20200429
- Security Forces Surrounding Pademba Prison in Freetown After a Riot Broke Out, (Cooper Inveen, Reuters, "Riot Breaks Out in Coronavirus-Struck Prison in Sierra Leone," Al-Jazeera, 29 April 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/riot-breaks-coronavirus-struck-prison-sierra-leone-200429141126471.html)