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Home News UN suspends resettlement travel for refugees over virus

UN suspends resettlement travel for refugees over virus

Published on 17/03/2020

The United Nations said Tuesday it would suspend resettlement travel for refugees over fears they could become stranded as countries drastically reduce entries over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UN agencies for refugees and for migration jointly announced that they were taking steps to temporarily suspend departures by people already living as refugees who had been approved to be resettled in third countries.

“As countries drastically reduce entry into their territories owing to the COVID-19 global health crisis, and restrictions around international air travel are introduced, travel arrangements for resettling refugees are currently subject to severe disruptions,” the UNHCR and IOM said in a statement.

They pointed out that some countries had also placed a hold on resettlement arrivals as they increasingly shut borders in a bid to halt the spread of the new coronavirus, which has infected more than 180,000 people worldwide and killed more than 7,000.

“Refugee families are being directly impacted by these quickly evolving regulations in the course of their travel, with some experiencing extensive delays while others have been stranded or separated from family members,” the statement said.

The UN organisations also justified their decision to suspend departures with their concern that “international travel could increase the exposure of refugees to the virus.”

They stressed that the suspension, which would begin taking effect in coming days, was “a temporary measure that will be in place only for as long as it remains essential.”

“Resettlement remains a life-saving tool for many refugees,” UNHCR and IOM said, urging countries to “ensure that movements can continue for the most critical emergency cases wherever possible.”

More than 70 million people globally been forced by conflict, persecution, violence and abuses to flee their homes, including more than 20 million people living as refugees, according to UN data.

The UN refugee agency has said there is a desperate need for resettlement spots in third countries for the world’s most vulnerable refugees.

It considered 1.4 million people to have resettlement needs in 2019 alone, but only around 55,000 people departed for resettlement countries last year.