UNHCR resettlement conference focuses on helping refugees at risk

Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- Representatives from 34 countries rose from a three-day meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, held to coordinate international efforts to help the hundreds of thousands of refugees who continued to be at risk in the countri e s where they have sought asylum.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said Wednesday in a news dispatch sent to PANA her e from Geneva the annual tri-partite consultations on resettlement, which ended W ednesday brought together government representatives, members of non-governmental organis ations and experts from the UN refugee agency.
It was the largest and most important event of its kind in the world.
"A lot has been said and written on the responsibility to protect, but we would like to seize this opportunity to encourage states to think of resettlement as a practical form of sharing this responsibility," said UNHCR Deputy Director for I n ternational Protection Vincent Cochetel.
"Fleeing persecution or conflict in their own country does not always result in refugees being out of harm's way.
In some cases, the threats that caused them to flee in the first place are also present in the country where they seek asylum," Cochetel said.
In other cases, new dangers arise for individuals with special needs or for thos e who find themselves in a particularly vulnerable situation.
In these instances, on a case-by-case basis, the agency attempts to find a safe third country to take them in, or resettle them, he disclosed.
Resettled refugees receive legal protection, residency and, eventually, citizens hip, from the governments that agree to receive them.
According to him, the agency works closely with central and local authorities, N GOs and religious and social welfare groups, to find solutions to these cases.
Former Congolese refugee Rose Mapendo, who addressed the gathering on Monday and took part in the group discussions, is a living example of how resettlement has given some refugees at risk a new lease of life.
Rose survived horrific violence and brutality before being resettled to the Unit ed States.
Her husband was murdered.
Although she said she was happy to finally be safe with her 10 children and one grandson, Rose found life in the States difficult at the beginning.
"I could not communicate with anybody," she said.
"I could not speak English and I could not read nor write.
It was very hard.
" Despite having no formal education, Rose taught herself to read and write, becam e a US citizen and helped to start a humanitarian agency that assists vulnerable refugees in Africa.
She is now able to help others who have lived through traumatic experiences simi lar to her own.
Despite efforts to expand the number of places available, only a small proportio n of the world's refugees – usually the most vulnerable – are resettled.
Resettlement countries take an average of 70,000 people every year, but the agen cy estimates the total number of people in need of resettlement is about 560,000 , or less than five per cent of the world's refugee population.
UNHCR promotes resettlement within the context of broader policies, which strive to address the causes of flight and to strengthen the principle and practice of asylum.
The ability to resettle refugees in need remains an effective way of offering re fugees both protection and a lasting solution to their plight.
Last year, the agency handled 99,000 cases of resettlement, 83 per cent more th an in 2006.
Some 75,300 refugees were admitted by 14 resettlement countries in 2 0 07.
The main resettlement countries were the United States (48,300 cases, including family re-unions), Canada (11,200), Australia (9,600), Sweden (1,800) and Norway (1,100).
The main countries of origin of resettled refugees last year were Myanmar (20,20 0), Burundi (6,300), Somalia (5,900), Iraq (3,800) and the Democratic Republic o f Congo (2,500).
"Resettlement is a protection tool, a durable solution and an instrument of inte rnational solidarity all in one.
It is, in this sense, very precious but we must make it accessible to a larger number of refugees, particularly those coming fro m protracted refugee situations," said Cochetel.

02 Julho 2008 19:05:00

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