QCEA urges vigilance on civil liberties

The Quaker Council for European Affairs has pledged to ‘be actively vigilant’ to see how civil liberties are affected by COVID-19 restrictions

Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) has pledged to ‘be actively vigilant’ to see how civil liberties and ‘the most vulnerable’ are affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

Andrew Lane, director of QCEA, told the Friend that the organisation is involved in a data collection exercise where people can submit information from across Europe on how new legislation is affecting their country. In particular, it is accumulating a record of: ‘new powers claimed by governments which have human rights implications; the legislation, often passed very quickly, which granted these powers; details of how long governments will retain the right to use these measures; [and] reports of abuses by authorities; and examples of solidarity and resistance/resilience’.

Writing on its new ‘During Covid-19’ webpage, QCEA says: ‘For a period of several months or more, European governments will severely curb civil liberties in attempts to suppress the spread of the virus. Under difficult circumstances, it is likely that public authorities, including the police, will enforce restrictions that limit personal freedom. In many cases, this may be in the public interest; sometimes it will not. The message from Europeans must be absolutely clear: today, we willingly cede our freedoms in a crisis – but tomorrow, we want them back.’

Andrew Lane told the Friend that the situation is ‘changing quickly and this is a critical time for Quaker work. We have been undertaking advocacy across Europe to encourage opportunities for peace and for COVID-19 policies, not to further exclude some of the most marginalised in our societies’. He also said that ‘we are already seeing a reduction in services for homeless people and undocumented migrants across Europe. Now is the time to be quietly encouraging governments to see this as a time for solidarity, and not a time for scapegoating’.

Although Brussels is in lockdown, resident staff at Quaker House are working as normal.

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