20 June 2020
On World Refugee Day we hold the 25.9 million refugees of the world in our thoughts. Refugees around the world have made treacherous journeys in pursuit of peace, prosperity, and the full enjoyment of basic human rights.
Life has become even more difficult for refugees as the world contends with the COVID-19 virus. Travel restrictions have prevented refugees from moving through transit countries. In camp communities, transmission prevention measures are difficult to implement. Space is often at a premium, making physical social distancing impossible. Moreover, access to hand-washing facilities and health services may be limited; and personal protective equipment, if available, may be in short supply.
I commend host countries for upholding the values of the Charter of the United Nations, in providing for the people we serve in the context of an unprecedented global challenge.
More than 134 host countries are reporting local transmission of COVID-19, and are working hard to mitigate the effects of a global health pandemic on the vulnerable group they host. Indeed, more than 80% of the world’s refugees are hosted in low and middle-income countries, where tenuous health systems are already under strain.
I urge all Member States to listen to, and heed, the voices of refugees and displaced persons as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The health of every person is tied to the health of those furthest behind.
On World Refugee Day, I thank the UNHCR, IOM and all humanitarian workers who have dedicated their life’s work to creating a better world for all. I commend the WHO for its continued leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today I pay tribute to the courage and resilience of refugees everywhere. Your journey has not been easy; you have experienced hardship and encountered difficulties. Yet, you have persisted in pursuit of a future which is free from fear, and full of possibility. We share your dreams of a better world for your children. Do not lose hope.
We will leave no one behind. Together, we will build back better for a brighter future.