Press Release: The Council of Europe and UNHCR support Member States in bringing refugee health workers into the COVID-19 response

Geneva, 14 April 2020

As many European countries continue to struggle with the unprecedent COVID-19 crisis, the Council of Europe and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today encourage States to benefit from the support refugee health professionals can provide to national health systems at this critical juncture.

“In recent weeks, several States in Europe have publicly appealed for refugee health professionals to join in national responses to the virus. We fully support such initiatives and hope they can be further expanded across the continent and beyond,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Medical professionals and health workers across the continent have responded to the pandemic with selfless determination, and all available help is needed at this time of crisis. Refugees with proven professional competencies are ready to step in and contribute if allowed to, under the supervision of certified health professionals. In this way, they can show their solidarity, and give back to the communities sheltering them.” said Grandi.

There are refugees and asylum seekers currently in Europe with the competences and relevant experience who are willing to get involved and help. But most health-related professions are tightly regulated and competent national health authorities need to give the necessary approvals.

“Refugees, their host societies and their home countries all benefit from the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees. The qualifications that refugees already have, but cannot fully document, can be used and can be built on,” said Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

“The EQPR is not a substitute for the necessary professional certificates and licences, but it does help the authorities speed things up by providing some of the background needed”.

The EQPR can help establish a qualified pool of pre-assessed refugee health practitioners, that will enable the national health authorities to determine how best to deploy refugee resources, if and when needed. UNHCR is engaging with partners to find innovative ways to reach out to refugee communities, identify willing health practitioners, and facilitate access to online tests. Both the Council of Europe and UNHCR are already working with partners from National Qualifications Recognition Centres to identify refugee health professionals and help assess their skills and credentials through this programme.

Media contacts:

For COE:
Daniel Höltgen, Spokesperson of the Secretary General, Mob. +33 6 68 29 87 51;, @CoESpokesperson

In Berlin, Chris MELZER,, +49 151 706 660 13
In Budapest, Zoran STEVANOVIC,, +36 305 309 633
In London, Matthew SALTMARSH,, +44(0)7880 230 985
In Madrid, Maria Jesus VEGA,, +34 670 661 263
In Paris, Céline SCHMITT,, +33 6 23 16 11 78
In Rome, Carlotta SAMI,, +39 335 679 47 46
In Stockholm, Elisabeth Arnsdorf HASLUND,, +45 21 42 55 64
In Geneva, Andrej MAHECIC,, +41 79 642 9709

The EQPR was launched in 2017 by the Council of Europe to help States assess refugees’ qualifications and facilitate their integration. It involves recognition centers from 10 countries (Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom) as well as public authorities and the UNHCR and receives financial support from Belgium (Flemish government), Georgia, Greece, Italy, Monaco, and Norway. The first holder of the EQPR obtained permanent employment in a health-related field in Norway in 2019. More than 500 refugees have benefitted from the programme across Europe so far.

More information about the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees
More information on other COVID-related education issues