Ben & Jerry’s Statement on Supporting Refugees and People Seeking Asylum During COVID-19

The enormity of COVID-19 has shown us how interconnected we really are. At the same time, whilst we are all in this together, we are not all impacted equally. COVID-19 does discriminate; it is the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our societies that have been – and will continue to be - disproportionately affected in the short and long term. Whether that’s due to poverty, or systemic racism, many people are left behind. Amongst those most at risk, are people who are refugees and those seeking asylum.  

To support us through this crisis, many of us will have turned to family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours. Some of us will have accepted financial support to keep our incomes and feed our families.  But for people who have come to Europe fleeing war and violence, and seeking a safe place to call home, these support networks have been severed. The majority of those seeking asylum are not able to access public support to keep themselves safe. 

We stand in solidarity with people who are refugees and those seeking asylum. We call on those in power to redesign the hostile immigration systems and policies that systemically discriminate against people who are refugees. 

We call on our leaders to respond to the current situation with compassion, and to give everyone – no exceptions – the chance to live in safety and in dignity.  

Led by our principles of fairness and equality for all (no exceptions), we will campaign to:  

  • End immigration detention – detention is inhumane and serves only to keep people locked in a cycle of fear and destitution.  We have already seen that the virus spreads most quickly in these conditions given physical distancing is impossible and we believe there is an opportunity for all governments in Europe to follow Spain’s lead and close all detention centres.
  • Relocate people stuck at the borders of Europe. Camps at the borders of the European Union are catastrophically vulnerable to this crisis. People must be safely relocated as a priority.
  • Ensure safety for people in camps waiting for relocation. Funding must be provided by all governments to ensure adequate sanitation and healthcare for those still in camps while they wait for relocation.
  • Resettle people already in the asylum process - Stop the political stasis that is keeping people locked in unsafe camps at the borders of Europe and ensure fair responsibility sharing across European nations, to support people to live in safety
  • Ensure people have access to vital support and services, including healthcare services. Rules and regulations in some cases prevent people from going to the doctor when they need to – which endangers themselves, their families and communities. Some people are also forced to work in dangerous conditions because the government isn’t supporting them properly. This must change. 
  • Regularisation/Amnesty for all migrants including people seeking asylum. Giving all people legal status is the quickest and easiest way to make sure that everyone can access the healthcare and support they need to survive this crisis, no exceptions.  A starting point would be to follow Portugal’s lead and grant full citizenship rights to asylum seekers and other migrants during this crisis.
  • Give people the opportunity to utilise their skills. Grant the right to work for asylum seekers. We are reliant on our healthcare workers, our food suppliers, our delivery drivers, our care workers. Many newcomers able to support with this national and international effort are prevented from doing so, simply because of their immigration status. 
  • Reinstate sea rescues. When the sea feels safer than the land, you understand that people have no choices left open to them at home.  Europe must reinstate sea rescue.