World Refugee Day 2020: Every action counts
Every year, since 2001, on June 20 the celebration of World Refugee Day was marked as the anniversary of 1951 Geneva Convention on the status of Refugees by the United Nations General Assembly. The main aim to celebrate this day is to increase awareness among the people by sharing the experiences of refugees and their stories . It also reminds people of the failures of an international community or home conflicts due to which people are forced to leave their homes. Also, the celebration of this day aims to support millions of families who have left their homes and dear ones because of war or any other reason.
In the past decade, the global refugee population has more than doubled, with more than 25 million refugees living in host communities around the world. We are now at the highest population on record. Millions of people are forced to move from their homes every year to keep safe from war, persecution or natural disaster . According to the United Nations (UN) every minute, around 25 people have to leave everything in search for a better and safer life. This situation poses many challenges to host countries, not least with regard to preparedness and resilience of health systems and access to health-care services. The need to develop more effective approaches that respond to the health needs of displaced populations and address the root causes of displacement is therefore imperative.
Refugees face challenges in accessing healthcare for refugees is mostly restricted in host countries with great variation in entitlements. For example, although most welcoming countries offer in principle some kind of medical screening upon arrival, many refugees do not benefit from these services. Generally there are many challenges for providing healthcare to these people such as the complex legislative requirements for obtaining permanent status, lack of knowledge about available services language and cultural barriers, administrative and bureaucratic factors, and mistrust of health providers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted clear discriminatory limitations on access to healthcare for migrants and refugees. The situation is very critical especially for migrants, asylum seekers and internally displaced people living in overcrowded refugee camps or in immigration detention centres where adequate social distancing and hygiene measures are not implemented. In Greece, for example, refugee camps are not prepared for the COVID-19 given that access to healthcare for refugees is extremely limited. In Italy, tens of thousands of asylum seekers live in big reception centres, often in shared rooms .
We, in IFMSA, believe in the right of all individuals, especially vulnerable groups including refugees. Refugees should have access to quality healthcare services with no restrictions, while respecting their dignity and being included in their hosting societies. As medical students, we believe that it’s our duty to promote the right to health to all, as one of the foundations of our profession, and that should cover both physical and mental health of this population. As we commemorate World Refugee Day 2020, we call on governments, civil society but also communities and individuals to step up their efforts in protecting refugees’ health and rights, especially now during this global health emergency, where every action counts.