Greetings on World Refugee Day 2020.
This is a year when many millions around the world have found their lives disrupted like never before by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Refugees are doubly vulnerable at this time, but a global pandemic requires an approach of global solidarity. Now more than ever, we are now only as strong as the weakest among us.
States can and should ensure access to asylum while also protecting public health. States can, for example, impose measures at the border such as health screening, testing, quarantine and self-isolation to manage health risks while also respecting the principle of non-refoulement, which means not forcing anyone back into persecution.
On World Refugee Day 2020, I would like to highlight the plight of the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in particular.
The Rohingya have already suffered one of the worst humanitarian and human rights crises of the 21st Century, forced from their homes by targeted ethnic cleansing and sexual assault.
I will always remember the many Rohingya refugees I met in Cox’s Bazaar on a visit in July 2019, when I was accompanied by Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister, His Excellency, A. K. Abdul Momen.
Ultimately, the responsibility for the displaced Rohingya lies with Myanmar. But international agreements are clear: forcing refugees back to places of persecution is illegal, and refugees, including the Rohingya from Myanmar, can only return when it is safe to do so.
Until then, the international community must unequivocally support other durable solutions for the Rohingya refugee population and must ensure their protection.
Hearing refugees’ own stories is vital to understanding their needs, and indeed to remind us all of our common humanity.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees is marking World Refugee Day 2020 with the message that “Everyone can make a difference” and “Every action counts”.
Let us all make the post-pandemic world a world of greater empathy, and of greater determination to protect the most vulnerable among us.