The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is appealing to countries across the world to be mindful of not denying asylum seekers refuge even when there are increasing restrictions due to COVID-19.
Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement that “all states must manage their borders in the context of this unique crisis as they see fit”.
Many countries have closed their borders and restricted travelers as the world continues to grapple with the fast spread of coronavirus.
There are 9,840 deaths from the virus with 234,073 confirmed cases according to the WHO latest figures.
“With the world mobilizing to combat the spread of COVID-19, many countries are rightly adopting exceptional measures, limiting air travel and cross-border movements,” Grandi said.
While this is the case, he adds, wars and persecution have not stopped and that people are continuing to flee their homes in search of safety.
Grand said he is “increasingly worried” by measures adopted by some countries that could block altogether the right to seek asylum.
“All states must manage their borders in the context of this unique crisis as they see fit. But these measures should not result in closure of avenues to asylum, or of forcing people to return to situations of danger”.
“If health risks are identified, screening arrangements can be put in place, together with testing, quarantine and other measures”.
These, he says, will enable authorities manage the arrival of asylum seekers and refugees in a safe manner, while respecting international refugee protection standards designed to save lives.
“In these challenging times, let us not forget those who are fleeing war and persecution. They need – we all need – solidarity and compassion now more than ever before”.