Refugees in Nguenyyiel Gambella of Ethiopia, May 2019 [Image File]

UN Wants Ethiopia to Relax COVID-19 Travel Restriction

ADDIS ABABA – United Nations refugee agency has appealed to the Ethiopian government today to loosen its border closure and allow asylum to come in amid rising concerns coronavirus.

On Monday, the Government of Ethiopia announced a series of measures, including the closure of borders and deployment of National Defense Forces in the country’s border, as part of its effort to curb the spread of the virus.

These are necessary measures in times of crisis, claims UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Ethiopia.

But the UN agency says the government, in the implementation of these measures, needs to take into consideration the protection needs of asylum seekers.

“With the world mobilizing to combat the spread of COVID-19, many countries are rightly adopting exceptional measures, limiting air travel and cross-border movements,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“But wars and persecution have not stopped – and today, across the globe, people are continuing to flee their homes in search of safety,” he said. “I am increasingly worried by measures adopted by some countries that could block altogether the right to seek asylum.”

The commissioner said countries must manage their borders in the context of this unique crisis as they see fit.

“But these measures should not result in closure of avenues to asylum, or of forcing people to return to situations of danger,” he said in a statement the UNHCR issued today.

“Solutions exist. If health risks are identified, screening arrangements can be put in place, together with testing, quarantine and other measures,” the commissioner said.

The statement does not say how and who covers the cost related to the screening and testing while Ethiopia appeals for the public’s support in coronavirus response.

The agency, however, said it is “closely monitoring the situation of the coronavirus and are working” with Ethiopia to implement preventative measures in refugee camps.

Ethiopia currently hosts close to 750,000 refugees.


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