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In the news: Coronavirus puts global refugee resettlement on hold

Border closures, flight restrictions, and health concerns mean people in the queue to start over in a new country will now have to wait even longer.

Malakasa refugee camp
The Malakasa refugee camp outside Athens, Greece. (Eric Reidy/TNH)

The UN announced Tuesday that it would soon pause resettlement travel for refugees, due to concerns and restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, and its migration agency, IOM, said in a joint statement that they are “taking steps to suspend resettlement departures for refugees,” adding that “this is a temporary measure that will be in place for only as long as it remains essential.”

The statement listed several reasons for the change, which will come into effect in the next few days, including entry bans, flight restrictions, and the concern that “international travel could increase the exposure of refugees to the virus.”

People who have fled their home countries and had their asylum claims accepted have a very low chance of being resettled in a third country that has agreed to offer them permanent residency or citizenship.

Read more → Refugee resettlement flattens off

According to UNHCR, 63,696 refugees were offered resettlement spots through the agency in 2019, slightly more than in 2018. That’s 4.5 percent of an estimated 1.4 million refugees UNHCR considers to be in “urgent need” of resettlement worldwide

UNHCR and IOM said some countries had placed their own holds on planned refugee arrivals due to the global pandemic.

-Annie Slemrod

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