Every action counts on World Refugee Day


The effects of COVID-19 are being felt around the world. These unprecedented times called for government coordination to ensure basic humanitarian, emergency, and other COVID-19-related global response capabilities. There was a need for ensuring basic contingency arrangements were in place to ensure the worldwide availability of medical and hygienic supplies and aid.

Normally during humanitarian emergencies, aviation’s speed and reliability plays an essential role in bringing assistance to regions facing disasters. Aircraft bring aid, food, water and medical supplies and search and rescue services to regions that need support and they assist with repatriating those who are stranded. Airports also play a role by becoming landing points for support, cargo and relief supplies and refugee transfers.

As part of our ongoing efforts in the global response to COVID-19, ICAO has taken action to support wide-ranging humanitarian goals. We issued recommendations for civil aviation to ensure efficient authorizations for the entry, departure, and transit access of aircraft being operated to repatriate nationals and other eligible persons from foreign countries…but in a pandemic that has impacted every industry and knows no border, what happens to those who are in displaced communities and considered stateless?

Every year on June 20th World Refugee Day is recognized around the world. Every Action Counts is the theme for 2020. Though we work very hard to ensure No Country is Left Behind so that all States have access to the significant socio-economic benefits of safe and reliable air transport – today we are doing our part to ensure no one is left behind by explaining why this day is recognized. Because every action counts.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), every minute 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror. There are several types of forcibly displaced persons:

    • Refugees: someone who fled his or her home and country owing to “a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”. Many refugees are in exile to escape the effects of natural or human-made disasters.
    • Asylum Seekers: refugees who have fled their homes as refugees do, but their claim to refugee status is not yet definitively evaluated in the country to which they fled.
    • Internally Displaced Persons: people who have not crossed an international border but have moved to a different region than the one they call home within their own country.
    • Stateless Persons: people who do not have a recognized nationality and do not belong to any country. Statelessness situations are usually caused by discrimination against certain groups. Their lack of identification — a citizenship certificate — can exclude them from access to important government services, including health care, education or employment.
    • Returnees: former refugees who return to their own countries or regions of origin after time in exile. Returnees need continuous support and reintegration assistance to ensure that they can rebuild their lives at home.

The UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report that was released on June 18th shows that 79.5 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2019. The UNHCR strives to ensure that all refugees are able to access life-saving and essential healthcare. Thanks to donors and partners, the assistance they provide is transforming lives in refugee camps, settlements, rural and urban populations around the world. In times of forced displacement, they advocate to influence governments, non-governmental partners and the public at large to adopt practices that ensure the protection of those in need. They empower refugees to build strong social, economic and cultural ties with their host communities, and to strengthen their capacity to lead independent and fulfilling lives. This year, the UNHCR is celebrating the refugees who are fighting on the COVID-19 frontlines.