UN: COVID-19 border closures have become a new threat to refugees

Border closures against the backdrop of the Coronavirus pandemic have become a new threat to migrants and refugees, said Sibylla Broadzinski of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for Central America and Mexico.

UN: COVID-19 border closures have become a new threat to refugees
According to UNHCR, about 37 thousand people a day are forced to flee their countries to escape from armed conflicts, political persecution or criminal gangs. For them, the closure of borders against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic is a threat to life.

“The global call to stay home is like a mantra that we all listen to, but for refugees, staying home is not an option; no one wants to be a refugee; if they’re running, they want to save their lives”, –  Broadzinski said.

All countries have the right and responsibility to protect their populations in the face of the pandemic, she said. But the emergence of a new type of coronavirus has not led to the suspension of wars, conflicts or persecution. Therefore, Brodzinski called for governments to ensure that measures taken “to save the population do not lead to the closure of paths to seek asylum”.

However, according to her information, to date, there have been no confirmed cases of new type of coronavirus infection among people seeking asylum in Latin America.

According to Erica Guevara-Rossas, Director of American Affairs at Amnesty International, there are alternatives that the authorities can use to ensure the arrival of these people. For example, to conduct a preliminary medical examination, to introduce quarantine or isolation measures. It is important to emphasize that the coronavirus is not a product of migratory flows. The main thing, she said, was that the pandemic should not become a justification for discriminating against and stigmatizing people as carriers of the virus.

As Miriam Gonzalez of the Institute for Migrant Women in Central America told RIA Novosti, migrants and asylum seekers, in addition to discrimination and xenophobia, face hanging vulnerability during the pandemic.

On 11 March, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of a new coronavirus infection COVID-19 a pandemic. According to the latest WHO data, more than 690 thousand cases of infection have already been recorded in the world, more than 33 thousand people died.

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