UN Temporarily Suspends Refugee Resettlement Travel Amid COVID-196 min read

Sayli Ghadigaonkar

BACKGROUND:

The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic is in course of action of the pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), triggered by grave acute respirational syndrome Coronavirus 2. The outbreak was primarily identified in the city of Wuhan, Hubei, China on 17 December 2019, and was recognized as a ‘Pandemic’ by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11th March 2020. As of 20 March, more than 2,56,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in at least 180 countries and territories, resulting in more than 10,500 deaths and 89,000 recoveries.

The first known case in the United States of COVID-19 was confirmed on 20 January 2020, in a man who had returned from Wuhan on 15 January. The White House Coronavirus Task Force (WHCTF) was established on 29 January. On 31 January, the Trump administration declared a public health emergency and placed travel restrictions on entry for travellers from China.

The governor of Washington declared a state of emergency, Pacific Northwest State after the first death, an action that was followed by other states. Schools in the Seattle area cancelled classes on 3 March, and by mid-March, schools across the country were closing and most of the country’s students were out of school. 

On 6 March, President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, which provided $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the outbreak. Corporations levied employee travel restrictions, cancelled conferences, and encouraged employees to work from home. Sports events and seasons were cancelled. 

On 11 March, Trump announced travel restrictions for most of Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) for approx. thirty days, effective from 13 March, and on 14th March, he expanded the restrictions to include the United Kingdom and Ireland. On 13 March, he declared a national emergency, which made federal funds available to respond to the crisis. Beginning on 15 March, many businesses closed or reduced hours throughout the U.S. as a mode to try to combat the virus. 

As of 19 March 2020, the epidemic was present in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. The number of confirmed cases in the U.S. rose to 14,556, with 218 deaths.

On 11 February, the WHO in a press conference established COVID-19 as the name of the disease. On the same day, Tedros stated that UN Secretary-General had agreed to provide the “power of the entire UN system in the response.” A UN Crisis Management Team was activated as a result, allowing co-ordination of the entire United Nations response, which the WHO states will allow them to “focus on the health response while the other agencies can take along their expertise to bear on the wider social, economic and developmental implications of the outbreak.”

After the pandemic entered its global phase in March, many Chinese students, who were studying in Europe and the United States have returned home as the domestic daily latest cases in China declined. The hold of suspension of refugee resettlement by UN comes at a time when COVID-19 is an increasing concern and nations are putting travel restrictions.

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CURRENT ISSUE:

As a result of the COVID-19, many countries and regions including most of the Armenia, Australia, India, Iraq, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the United States have imposed temporary entry bans on Chinese citizens or recent visitors to China, or have ceased issuing visas and reimpose visa requirements on Chinese citizens. 

The United States suspended travel from the Schengen Area (the European border control-free travel area.) and the UK. The United States, Canada, Japan, India, France, Australia, Sri Lanka, Germany and Thailand were among the first to plan the evacuation of their citizens. 

The United States announced that it would evacuate Americans aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess. On 21th February, a plane carrying 129 Canadian passengers evacuated from Diamond Princess landed in Trenton, Ontario. 

The coronavirus outbreak has been attributed to several instances of supply shortages, stemming from: globally increased usage of equipment to fight the outbreaks, panic buying and disruption to the factory and logistic operations. 

United Nations also have observed panic buying that led to shelves being cleared of grocery essentials such as food, toilet paper and bottled water, inducing supply shortages.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, heightened prejudice, xenophobia and racism have been noted toward people of Chinese and other East Asian descent, as incidents of fear, suspicion and hostility have been observed in many countries, particularly in Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region. The hold of suspension of refugee resettlement by UN comes at a time when COVID-19 is an increasing concern and nations are putting travel restrictions.

QUESTION OF LAW:

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said on 17th March 2020, that they will announce measures to suspend resettlement travel in the coming days that will remain in place for as long as necessary.

These measures come as many nations are closing their borders and have already placed holds on resettlement arrivals due to their current public health situations. In their announcement, the agencies noted that the public health measures taken by some nations have already resulted in families being stranded or separated from each other. Additionally, refugees face increased exposure to the virus when travelling.

In the meantime, the agencies are committed to working closely with refugees scheduled for resettlement to provide support. The agencies are working closely with nations to ensure that the most critical emergency cases can travel for resettlement. The hold of suspension of refugee resettlement by UN comes at a time when COVID-19 is an increasing concern and nations are putting travel restrictions.

CONCLUSION:

It can be concluded on the hold of suspension of refugee resettlement that the organisations’announcement comes at a time when COVID-19 is an increasing concern and nations are putting more travel restrictions and social distancing measures in place.

 In this quickly changing environment, the agencies state that they will resume full resettlement travel “as soon as discretion and logistics sanction.” The hold of suspension of refugee resettlement by UN comes at a time when COVID-19 is an increasing concern and nations are putting travel restrictions.

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