Emmaus International

On World Refugee Day, Emmaus International denounces the serious breaches of the rights of refugees, which the health crisis has exacerbated. Our organisation reiterates its commitment to unconditional, dignified welcome, and the obligation of states to protect and receive refugees.


For several weeks now, the health crisis has highlighted and reinforced the extreme precarity in which refugees, stateless and internally displaced persons are held throughout the world. Calls for lockdown, physical distancing or hygiene measures immediately came up against the bitter reality of tens of millions of people, the majority of whom are denied the right to residence and administrative status. This status would, among other things, allow them access to healthcare and housing. Health isolation measures implemented in recent months have led to the marginalisation of millions of men, women and children who are displaced, uprooted and destitute.

In addition to the lack of health protection, stigmatising rhetoric has been used, even equating refugees to potential carriers of the deadly virus, reinforcing racist violence and discrimination. The exceptional situation in which we find ourselves and the measures taken to curb the pandemic must not justify the curtailment of rights of refugees!

Emmaus International, which works in 41 countries, has seen on a daily basis the extent to which the fight against Covid-19 has been used to control and restrict fundamental freedoms: internment of Rohingya refugees on an island prone to flooding in Bangladesh [1], restriction of movement and increased risk of contamination for destitute, internally displaced people in Colombia or Burkina Faso, strict lockdown only for exiled persons in camps with disastrous sanitary conditions on Greek territory [2]. The list of examples is endless.

Since the start of this crisis, numerous voices, from both associations and institutions, have appealed to states not to forget the vulnerable people in their response to the pandemic. Faced with the inaction of many countries it is, as is often the case, active solidarity with local people and civil society organisations, which have ensured the respect of the principles of dignity, access to economic and social rights and protection of the most vulnerable, particularly refugees, whose rights are enshrined in international law.

To mark World Refugee Day and in view of its daily commitment to vulnerable people, Emmaus International reaffirms its commitment to unconditional welcome and freedom of movement, and emphasises the urgency for states to respect international law and uphold their obligations to protect refugees.

[1] Press release by Emmaus Asia in 2019 about the situation of Rohingya refugees in Asia
[2] Press release by Migreurop, of which Emmaus Europe is a member, on 2 April 2020 on the situation of exiled people in Greek hotspots

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