The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has urged countries not to "close avenues to asylum" as part of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus. He is worried that some countries could completely block the right to seek asylum.
"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," Filippo Grandi said in a statement released on March 19 by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). "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."
"For many people around the world, everyday life has come to a standstill, or is being transformed in ways that we had never envisaged," Grandi stressed in the statement. "But wars and persecution have not stopped - and today, across the globe, people are continuing to flee their homes in search of safety. I am increasingly worried by measures adopted by some countries that could block altogether the right to seek asylum."
'Let us not forget those fleeing war and persecution'
''If health risks are identified, screening arrangements can be put in place, together with testing, quarantine and other measures," he noted in the statement. "These will enable authorities to manage the arrival of asylum seekers and refugees in a safe manner, while respecting international refugee protection standards designed to save lives."
Grandi stressed: "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."