The United Nations refugee agency has urged people to not discriminate against any community since the novel coronavirus does not discriminate. A spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that COVID-19 is not only a test of our healthcare systems and mechanisms for responding to infectious disease but also of our ability to work together as a community of nations in the face of a common challenge.
UNHCR spokesperson Cecile Pouilly, in a video posted on refugee agency’s official Twitter account, said tourists, entrepreneurs and ministers have been infected by the pandemic, suggesting that the novel coronavirus does not discriminate and neither should you. Pouilly cautioned that refugees could become targets of discrimination since scapegoats are never far away when fear and uncertainty kick in.
“We have already seen anger and hostility directed at some people. We have seen rumours circulating on social media. If left unchecked the urge to blame and exclude may soon extend to other groups, minorities, the marginalised or anyone labelled ‘foreigner’,” said the spokesperson.
Pouilly said that the agency, with the help of partners, has started increasing the distribution of clean water, soap and waste disposable measures and launched information campaigns. She emphasised that international solidarity will be key if we are going to beat this virus. The UNHCR spokesperson urged the countries to not prevent people from crossing the borders who may be fleeing from war.
“If there is a health risk, other actions can be taken like testing or a time-limited quarantine,” she added.
The UNHCR has stepped up the support for refugees in Iran due to the coronavirus outbreak. In coordination with the government agency, it has started the distribution of essential items such as soap and disposable paper towels to around 7,500 households living in refugee settlements across Iran.
“We stand in solidarity with the Iranian people and authorities and are fully mobilized to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate the impact on the most vulnerable, including refugees,” said Ivo Freijsen, UNHCR Representative in Iran.