The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR have announced a temporary suspension of resettlement travel for refugees because of COVID-19.
More and more countries are closing their border or tightening
restrictions on travel due to the global spread of the COVID-19
pandemic. Those restrictions are also affecting and disrupting
resettlement activities say the international organizations IOM and
"Some states have also placed a hold on resettlement arrivals given their public health situation," read an IOM press release. This "impacts on their capacity to receive newly resettled refugees."
The IOM says that the restrictions were both delaying and, in some cases, stranding refugees or even separating them from family members.
'International travel could expose refugees to virus'
Both the IOM and UNHCR said that they were also "concerned that international travel could increase the exposure of refugees to the virus." For that reason they were themselves taking steps to "suspend resettlement departures for refugees." The UN organizations said that this would be a "temporary measure" and would be "in place for as long as it remains essential."
The organizations acknowledge that resettlement "remains a life-saving tool for many refugees," and so they are working closely with states to "ensure that movements can continue for the most critical emergency cases wherever possible."
According to the
UN's own figures, only 1% of the world's refugees even get the
chance to be resettled.
look forward to resuming full resettlement travel as soon as prudence
and logistics permit," concluded the IOM’s press statement.