World Refugee Day 2020 ‘Every action counts’

Since 2000, World Refugee Day has been internationally observed on 20 June to raise awareness of the situation of refugees across the globe. Under this year’s theme, the aim is to remind the world that everyone, including refugees, can contribute to society and that ‘Every Action Counts’ in the effort to create a more just, inclusive and equal world. The COVID-19 pandemic and the recent anti-racism protests have shown the urgent need to fight for a more inclusive and equal world where no one is left behind.

Refugees are already some of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in our societies.In the context of the current pandemic, proper social distancing is often not possible in crowded refugee camps, and access to protective equipment and sanitation can be extremely difficult. One of the first things that many states did was to close their borders and suspend all asylum requests, leaving many people completely stranded and at even greater risk.

Systematic inequalities have been highlighted and again, following the Refugee Crisis of 2015-2016, Europe’s asylum systems have been shown to be inadequate. Women and girls in asylum centres are also being held in overcrowded facilities where self-isolation is impossible. Now more than ever they must be provided with measures to ensure they are able to self-isolate and to have access to adequate sanitation. The situation where they are also much more vulnerable to gender-based violence. We must ensure that shelters for asylum seeking women and girls who are victims of this violence remain open with the appropriate measures to protect them and workers from the spread of the virus.

This is a European issue demanding a European response, but all too often Member States act in very different ways. Much like lockdown policies, the approach to asylum has been extremely divergent across the EU with some authorities not reopening their asylum systems or processing requests.

The European Free Alliance stands with refugees and aid workers, and believes in international solidarity and building bridges between peoples. All of us across Europe have a role to play, and we call on the Member States of the EU to do more to support at-risk communities such as refugees during these unprecedented and challenging times.

See infographic about Coronavirus pandemic and refugee crisis

Our MEP Pernando Barrena has this message, on World Refugee Day: