UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and the European Union donated today tens of thousands of personal protective and hygiene items to Montenegro’s Ministry of Interior to protect refugees and asylum seekers as well as the Ministry’s front-line workers. In all 50,000 masks, 50,000 gloves, 4,000 bottles of hand gel and 1,500 liters of medical alcohol were provided, the aim being to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The donation is provided through a regional project Addressing COVID-19 Challenges within the Migrant and Refugee Response in the Western Balkans, which is financed under the EU’s Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace. In Montenegro, the project contributes to mitigating the risk of transmission of COVID-19 among refugees and asylum seekers and front-line workers by upscaling the healthcare services (including medicines) provided in the asylum system, along with improved sanitary infrastructure and availability of hygiene items and protective equipment.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created extraordinary and unprecedented difficulties across the globe and has rendered refugees and asylum seekers particularly vulnerable, including in some instances at risk of being left out of national anti-COVID programmes. UNHCR Montenegro has worked throughout this crisis to ensure that refugees, asylum seekers and front-line workers of the Ministry of Interior are protected at all times. The availability and use of Personal Protective Equipment is also essential for UNHCR and its partners to remain active in the field and continue delivering,” said Adrian Edwards, UNHCR’s Representative for Montenegro.

The support of the European Union has also been critical in ensuring continual provision of community-based activities and unimpeded access to services for asylum seekers, particularly psychosocial support in the centres where asylum seekers arrive. Furthermore, understanding that information can be life-saving during the COVID-19 epidemic, UNHCR and EU worked with the Ministry of Interior to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees have access to clear and factual information, in languages they understand, to be able to protect themselves, their families and the communities in which they live.

“This unprecedented health crisis has heavily affected everyone in the EU and all our partners, including Montenegro. But, it is our help and support for those who are less fortunate than ourselves, in these difficult times that truly tests and proves our commitment to solidarity, as a fundamental value of a united Europe. Today’s donation of personal protective equipment is yet another proof of the European Union’s commitment to stand by Montenegro and to support the country in protecting migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and other vulnerable persons amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” said EU Ambassador to Montenegro Oana Cristina Popa.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Ministry of Interior has recognized the importance of donations and has repeatedly coordinated, through available mechanisms, the assistance for institutions and frontline workers. “No country can cope alone with such a challenging situation as the pandemic of coronavirus. Our optimism when it comes to overcoming this problem is strengthened by the strong support and expressed solidarity from our international partners”, said the Minister of Interior, Sergej Sekulovic.

Today, the Ministry of Interior received a valuable donation of equipment that protects our employees, but also asylum seekers and migrants. “The Ministry of Interior is very grateful to our friends from UNHCR and the EU Delegation in Montenegro’, said Minister Sekulovic on this occasion.