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“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.

And for many people around the world, everyday life has come to a standstill, or is being transformed in ways that we had never envisaged.

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.

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.

Solutions exist. If health risks are identified, screening arrangements can be put in place, together with testing, quarantine and other measures. 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.

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.”

Originally published on UNHCR on 19 March 2020

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