No country, no region in the world has been spared from the impact of COVID-19. The virus is exacerbating existing inequalities and has a disproportionate effect on refugees, internally displaced persons, vulnerable migrants and stateless persons. We must all redouble our efforts. As vaccination campaigns are underway in the EU, the EU is working to ensure universal access to COVID-19 vaccines, in particular through the COVAX Facility.
86% of the world’s refugees* are hosted in developing countries, which are also facing serious challenges because of the pandemic. Despite these challenges, the pandemic has also brought us together. We have seen countless examples of refugees and their host communities joining efforts and stepping up in the most difficult moments, showing yet again the enormous potential of refugees to flourish in their new homes, when given enough support.
It is our responsibility to support refugees as well as host countries in this difficult context. We assist in meeting people’s basic needs and in fostering social inclusion through access to education, health, employment and livelihoods. The EU has been at the forefront of the international response to major refugee crises, such as those affecting Syrians, Venezuelans and their host communities.
On the occasion of this World Refugee Day, we are announcing a new initiative, the “Lives in Dignity Grant Facility”, that seeks new forms of collaboration between humanitarian, development and peace actors to address the most challenging situations of forced displacement in the world. The first €12 million of the €24 million seed funding will focus on regions in Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.
The EU and its Member States are committed to the full implementation of the Geneva Convention. EU law guarantees the fundamental right to asylum and those forced to flee their homes will continue to be welcome in Europe. We support their inclusion in our societies through European funds, including to improve access to healthcare for refugees and training healthcare professionals to reduce barriers. This approach is reflected in the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which recognises both the support needed to integrate refugees into their host societies in Europe and the benefits that refugee populations bring to our communities. The recently revised EU Blue Card will give more opportunities to refugees seeking to work and be mobile within the EU.
Legal pathways are crucial to ensure that those who seek safety can do so without harm. Our new Talent Partnerships will better match the skills of workers from outside Europe with the labour market needs inside the EU. The EU is also now seeking further pledges from Member States to increase the number of refugees resettled to Europe this autumn after pandemic-related travel restrictions severely disrupted resettlement efforts in 2020.
Both inside and outside the EU, we will continue to devote special attention to children in fragile and vulnerable settings. Overcoming barriers to access to education and social activities, including sport, are key to preventing the pandemic from inflicting lasting damage to the coming generation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven just how interdependent our world is. Our humanity is only as strong as our support for the most vulnerable people.
This World Refugee Day, our message is clear: the EU is committed to bring an end to the pandemic everywhere and leave no one behind.