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Let refugee doctors fight COVID-19: European Council, UN

Let refugee doctors fight COVID-19: European Council, UN

FILE PHOTO: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi speaks during a news conference after the First Global Refugee Forum in Geneva. (Reuters/Denis Balibouse)

GENEVA: Countries in Europe and elsewhere should allow refugee health professionals to participate in the response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the European Council and the United Nations said on Tuesday (Apr 14).

"Refugees with proven professional competencies are ready to step in and contribute if allowed to, under the supervision of certified health professionals," UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi said in a statement.

"In this way, they can show their solidarity, and give back to the communities sheltering them," he said.

Many countries' health systems are under massive pressure as the worldwide death toll in the COVID-19 pandemic has surged past 120,000 out of nearly two million people infected, according to a tally compiled by AFP from official sources.

READ: Spain, Austria ease curbs but WHO warns COVID-19 outbreak 'certainly' has not peaked

Grandi said that several European countries had appealed for refugee doctors and nurses to join in their national response to the crisis, stressing that "we fully support such initiatives and hope they can be further expanded across the continent and beyond."

However, though more health professionals are sorely needed in many countries to fight the virus, it can be a difficult and lengthy process for medical workers trained in other countries to receive the necessary approvals in a tightly-regulated sector.

But European Council Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric stressed that countries could use a system created in 2017 to help states assess refugees' qualifications and facilitate their integration to speed up the process.

READ: Reasons for hope: The drugs, tests and tactics that may conquer COVID-19

"Refugees, their host societies and their home countries all benefit from the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees," she said.

"The qualifications that refugees already have, but cannot fully document, can be used and can be built on."

The system can help establish a qualified pool of pre-assessed refugee health practitioners, the statement said, adding that this in turn could help national health authorities to determine how best to deploy them if needed.

The UNHCR meanwhile said it was working with partners to find innovative ways to reach out to refugee communities and to identify health workers who might be willing to pitch in, and to facilitate their access to any necessary online tests.

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Source: AFP/lk


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