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 14 of 14
UNHCR reiterates the importance of eradication of statelessness in Ukraine6 Nov 2018
It is expected that the introduction of a statelessness determination procedure in Ukraine will ensure better identification and protection of stateless populations.
Working together to solve common problems for IDPs2 Nov 2018
NGOs, civil society representatives, people from conflict-torn areas and IDPs themselves collaborated in the Together for the Result Forum to discuss the rights of IDPs
World Humanitarian Day with UNHCR staff19 Aug 2018
Every year, on 19 August, we commemorate the World Humanitarian Day. Today, on this very special occasion UNHCR Ukraine is proud to introduce some of its colleagues, who have served in the areas of emergency.
Language is the door to another culture’s soul6 Aug 2018
A story of refugee integration through language learning.
2018 DAFI Scholarship for refugees in Ukraine20 Jul 2018
UNHCR Ukraine invites young refugees to submit their applications to participate in DAFI scholarship program (Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative).
Tour of Ukraine by Clowns Without Borders2 Jul 2018
Hosted by UNHCR Ukraine, Clowns Without Borders brought smiles to the faces of internally displaced and refugee children of all ages.
World Refugee Day 201829 Jun 2018
World Refugee day is an opportunity to remember all these who have had to leave their homes, livelihoods and quite often extended family to seek protection and shelter.
Ukrainian worker pedals out of war zone6 Jun 2018
Vasily Zubko hoped to the end he could stay in his beloved steppe country in eastern Ukraine, but as the conflict drew ever closer, he got on his bike and pedalled out of the war zone.
Life is a daily battle for families in Ukraine conflict zone27 Mar 2018
Ever-present danger of shelling and landmines makes it difficult to collect benefits, buy food or look for work.
Cut off on the Donetsk conflict line26 Mar 2018
Far from the headlines, 4.4 million people in eastern Ukraine continue to live in the grips of an armed conflict that has divided their region, restricting freedom of movement and displacing many.