The United Nations migration and refugee agencies on Tuesday said they would halt the resettlement of refugees as the coronavirus global pandemic drives countries to tighten their borders and amid restrictions on international air travel.
"Travel arrangements for resettling refugees are currently subject to severe disruptions," said a joint statement from the International Organisation for Migration and the UN Refugee Agency.
And international travel could increase the exposure of refugees to the Covid-19 virus, the statement warned.
"IOM and UNHCR are taking steps to suspend resettlement departures for refugees. This is a temporary measure that will be in place only for as long as it remains essential," the agencies said in a statement.
"Some states have also placed a hold on resettlement arrivals given their public health situation, which impacts on their capacity to receive newly resettled refugees," the statement added.
Some refugee families were experiencing extensive delays as a result of the restrictions while others had been stranded or separated from family members, according to the statement.
UNHCR and IOM urging countries and working closely with them to ensure that relocation can continue for "the most critical emergency cases wherever possible," said the statement.
The two agencies said they would try to bring all those refugees who have already been cleared for resettlement to their intended destinations in the coming days, when the suspension will begin to take effect.
Normal refugee resettlement travel will resume "as soon as prudence and logistics permit," the statement ended.