The rights and health of refugees, migrants and stateless must be protected in COVID-19 response
Geneva, 31 March 2020.
In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, we are all vulnerable. The virus has shown that it does not discriminate – but many refugees, those forcibly displaced, the stateless and migrants are at heightened risk.
Three-quarters of the world’s refugees and many migrants are hosted in developing regions where health systems are already overwhelmed and under-capacitated. Many live in overcrowded camps, settlements, makeshift shelters or reception centers, where they lack adequate access to health services, clean water and sanitation.
The situation for refugees and migrants held in formal and informal places of detention, in cramped and unsanitary conditions, is particularly worrying. Considering the lethal consequences a COVID-19 outbreak would have, they should be released without delay. Migrant children and their families and those detained without a sufficient legal basis should be immediately released.
This disease can be controlled only if there is an inclusive approach which protects every individual’s rights to life and health. Migrants and refugees are disproportionately vulnerable to exclusion, stigma and discrimination, particularly when undocumented. To avert a catastrophe, governments must do all they can to protect the rights and the health of everyone. Protecting the rights and the health of all people will in fact help control the spread of the virus.
It is vital that everyone, including all migrants and refugees, are ensured equal access to health services and are effectively included in national responses to COVID-19, including prevention, testing and treatment. Inclusion will help not only to protect the rights of refugees and migrants, but will also serve to protect public health and stem the global spread of COVID-19. While many nations protect and host refugee and migrant populations, they are often not equipped to respond to crises such as COVID-19. To ensure refugees and migrants have adequate access to national health services, States may need additional financial support. This is where the world’s financial institutions can play a leading role in making funds available.
While countries are closing their borders and limiting cross-border movements, there are ways to manage border restrictions in a manner which respects international human rights and refugee protection standards, including the principle of non-refoulement, through quarantine and health checks.
More than ever, as COVID-19 poses a global threat to our collective humanity, our primary focus should be on the preservation of life, regardless of status. This crisis demands a coherent, effective international approach that leaves no-one behind. At this crucial moment we all need to rally around a common objective, fighting this deadly virus. Many refugees, displaced, stateless people and migrants have skills and resources that can also be part of the solution.
We cannot allow fear or intolerance to undermine rights or compromise the effectiveness of responses to the global pandemic. We are all in this together. We can only defeat this virus when each and every one of us is protected.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
OHCHR: Rupert Colville, +41 22 917 97 67, [email protected]
IOM: Leonard Doyle, +41 79 285 71 23, [email protected]
UNHCR: Cecile Pouilly, + 41 79 108 26 25, [email protected]
WHO: Tarik Jašarević, +41 793 676 214, [email protected]
Page 1 of 13
UNHCR, and the Chernihiv Regional State Administration solidify ongoing collaboration in support of people impacted by the war to recover and rebuild their homes and lives.17 Nov 2022
17 November, Chernihiv, Ukraine – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and the Chernihiv Regional State Administration today signed a Memorandum of Understanding that sets out concrete areas of cooperation aimed at supporting the humanitarian needs of people living in and returning to the Chernihiv region. Following the full-scale invasion of […]
Modular homes help people whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged to stay in their communities26 Oct 2022
UNHCR cooperates with the Government of Ukraine and international donors to help ensure the war-affected people are safe and warm this winter
“At first, it was shock and uncertainty, but now we just want to rebuild our lives”4 Oct 2022
Psychosocial support from UNHCR and partner NGOs helps displaced people manage the stress caused by their displacement and to turn towards the future
UNHCR and the Kyiv Regional State Administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding to solidify ongoing collaboration in supporting people impacted by the war to recover and rebuild their homes and lives30 Sep 2022
29 September 2022, Kyiv, Ukraine – UNHCR and the Kyiv Regional State Administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding that sets out concrete areas of cooperation aimed at supporting people living in and returning to Kyiv region. In the first months of the war, more than one million people fled from […]
Together with the Kyiv State Oblast Administration and local authorities, UNHCR continues to provide humanitarian aid to people living in the war-affected communities of the Kyiv oblast.23 Sep 2022
Over the past two weeks alone, more than 3,400 items, including winterized items like mattresses, blankets, pillows, and also kitchen sets and hygiene products – were delivered to the residents of Kachaly village to meet their basic needs. In addition, the community received women’s bicycles and wheelchairs for people with […]
Critical items reach communities in newly accessible areas by UN convoy22 Sep 2022
Communities in the town of Shevchenkove and other areas of Kharkivska oblast were not accessible until very recently. UNHCR contributed to the first inter-agency humanitarian convoys of 13 trucks on 16 and 17 September to the newly accessible communities, delivering more than 35,000 items including thermal blankets, tarpaulins, and solar […]
UNHCR, UNICEF establish dozens of support hubs in countries hosting Ukrainian refugees22 Sep 2022
If you and/or your family are fleeing from the conflict in Ukraine, you can find refuge, relief, information and support in a Blue Dot Safe Space. In fact, to respond to immediate and multiple needs of many people on the move from Ukraine, UNHCR and UNICEF have, together with national authorities and […]
UNHCR helps displaced people recover after the missile attack in Dnipro25 Aug 2022
Thanks to the support from Japan, UNHCR Ukraine was able to deliver immediate aid to people affected by fighting
Ukrainian village torn apart by war begins long process of rebuilding17 Aug 2022
After deadly attacks left much of rural Nalyvaikivka in ruins, UNHCR is helping local families with temporary housing and construction materials as they look to rebuild.
UNHCR survey finds refugees from Ukraine hope to go home13 Jul 2022
Refugees will need continued support until they are able to return.