HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON SITUATION OF WORLD’S 21 MILLION REFUGEES

7 February 2002
SC/7297

HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON SITUATION OF WORLD’S 21 MILLION REFUGEES

07/02/2002
Press ReleaseSC/7297

Security Council

4470th Meeting (AM)

HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL

ON SITUATION OF WORLD’S 21 MILLION REFUGEES

Ruud Lubbers Cautions against ‘Unwarranted Linkages’

Between Refugees, Terrorists Implicit in Current Anti-Terrorism Measures

There were currently more than 21 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), stateless people and others who were of concern to his Office, Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told the Security Council this morning, adding that he was determined to make progress this year in finding durable solutions for many of those people. 

Addressing the Council in an open briefing, Mr. Lubbers went on to say that in many countries, he was optimistic about achieving the goal he had just outlined.  The challenge, however, was to ensure that the international community remained fully committed to supporting political processes aimed at ending conflict.

The High Commissioner also emphasized that in taking new counter-terrorism measures, governments must avoid making unwarranted linkages between refugees and terrorists.  Genuine refugees were themselves the victims of persecution and terror, not the perpetrators.  Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) must not be used to deprive innocent people of their basic rights, he stressed.

Addressing the refugee situation in Afghanistan, he said that even before 11 September 2001, Afghans constituted the largest refugee population in the world, with some 3.5 million of them in Pakistan and Iran alone.  Around 300,000 Afghans had entered those two countries since 11 September, and he was pleased to say that with the cooperation of both Governments, UNHCR had succeeded in meeting their basic needs.

Mr. Lubbers said that inside Afghanistan, the number of IDPs was estimated to be around 1 million in December 2001, bringing the total number of displaced people in the country to around 5 million.  Now, with the new Afghan Interim Administration in place, and with international troops on the ground, there was an opportunity for the first time in many years to successfully address the massive problem of human displacement.

Cautioning the international community not to forget Africa because of the spotlight on Afghanistan, the High Commissioner said that continent continued to demand the greatest share of UNHCR’s resources and attention.  Out of the

21 million refugees worldwide, more than 5 million were in Africa.  In December 2001 his Office organized a ministerial-level meeting in Geneva to discuss that refugee situation.  At that meeting, it was made clear that opportunities were arising now to put an end to Africa’s protracted refugee problems.  He was determined to seize those opportunities.

Mr. Lubbers also informed Council Members of the launch at the end of 2001 of Global Consultations on International Protection.  That process would reflect on how to revitalize the international framework for refugee protection set out in the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, and to assist States in addressing the current humanitarian challenge.  It would also generate an “Agenda for Protection” to set out concrete goals and actions to strengthen and serve as a guide for UNHCR, States, NGOs and other protection partners in the years ahead.

In the interactive session that followed Mr. Lubbers’ comprehensive briefing, the representative of the Russian Federation said humanitarian assistance could not be used as an instrument of political pressure on any party to a conflict.  Otherwise, instead of being a stabilization force, it would become a factor that fuelled conflict.  Also noting that resolution 1373 called on States to determine whether individuals were involved in terrorism or not before granting them asylum, he stated the criteria used to determine that must be universal and without any dual standards.

The representative of the United States said his country would not permit the 11 September events to compromise its tradition of providing refuge.  Terrorists, however, must not be allowed to take advantage of the refugee protection system.  That could be prevented through scrupulously applying existing law.   He also said it was unacceptable that UNHCR remained underfunded.  Refugees sometimes went without food supplies, and the United States would continue to provide its fair share of funding.

The representatives of Colombia, France, Guinea, United Kingdom, China, Syria, Norway, Ireland, Singapore, Cameroon, Bulgaria, Mauritius and Mexico also made statements.

Mr. Lubbers responded to questions from delegations.

The meeting began at 10:40 a.m. and adjourned at 1:24 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing by Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, on the world refugee situation.

Briefing by High Commissioner for Refugees

RUUD LUBBERS, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said that in taking new counter-terrorism measures, governments must avoid making unwarranted linkages between refugees and terrorists.  Genuine refugees were themselves the victims of persecution and terror, not the perpetrators.  Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) must not be used to deprive innocent people of their basic rights.

In November 2001, he continued, his Office issued a document outlining those concerns and providing practical suggestions on how to ensure that applicable international standards relating to refugee protection were met.  Since then, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had been called upon by governments to provide its expertise in helping to draft new regulations, aimed at avoiding abuse of the asylum channel by terrorists and other criminals.

Mr. Lubbers said there were currently more than 21 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), stateless people and others who were of concern to his Office.  “I am determined to make progress this year in finding durable solutions for many of these people”, he said.  In many countries, he was optimistic about the possibilities of achieving that.  The challenge was to ensure that the international community remained fully committed to supporting political processes aimed at ending conflict.

Addressing the refugee situation in Afghanistan, he said that even before  11 September 2001, Afghans constituted the largest refuge population in the world, with some 3.5 million of them in Pakistan and Iran alone.  Around 300,000 Afghans had entered those two countries since 11 September, and he was pleased to say that, with cooperation of both Governments, the UNHCR had succeeded in ensuring that their basic needs were met.

He said that in Pakistan considerable progress had been made in transferring refugees from makeshift camps to more secure areas with better living conditions.  It was also particularly gratifying to note that the notorious Jalozai camp, where conditions had been particularly bad, was about to close.

Mr. Lubbers said that inside Afghanistan, the number of IDPs was estimated to be around 1 million in December 2001, bringing the total number of displaced people in the country to around 5 million.  Now, with the new Afghan Interim Authority in place, and with international troops on the ground, there was an opportunity for the first time in many years to successfully address the massive problem of human displacement.

He said that at the Tokyo Conference on reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan, he presented UNHCR’s initial Return Plan.  “This describes our regional approach to the Afghan situation, outlining the preparations that we are making for the return and reintegration of refugees and IDPs”, he said.  “Our initial plan is to assist up to 1.2 million returnees in 2002.”  He added that this time he would become the “High Commissioner for Returnees”.

Mr. Lubbers stressed that security was the important factor for significant returns to take place in Afghanistan.  He was concerned about the deteriorating security situation in various parts of the country.  It was important that the issue of security be kept high on the international agenda. 

He went on to say that events such as those in Paktia and Balkh provinces, and ethnic tension in the north of the country, were inevitably a deterrent to the return of refugees and IDPs.  They also prevented access by humanitarian operations.  If the security situation continued to deteriorate, there was serious risk that Afghanistan would slide back into the 1992 situation.

In light of the above, he strongly supported the position taken yesterday by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Lakhdar Brahimi, when he expressed his hope that the Council would give favourable and urgent consideration to the possibility of extending the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond Kabul.  He also made a strong plea for tolerance, non-discrimination and reconciliation in the new Afghanistan.

The High Commissioner said that although the international spotlight had been on Afghanistan in the last few months, Africa continued to demand the greatest share of UNHCR’s resources and attention.  Out of the 21 million refugees mentioned earlier, more than 5 million were in Africa alone.  In December last year, his Office organized a ministerial-level meeting in Geneva to discuss the African refugee problem.  At that meeting, it was made clear that opportunities were arising now to put an end to Africa’s protracted refugee problems.  He was determined to seize those opportunities.

Africa must remain a top priority, he said.  The international community could not afford to neglect its chronic problems of poverty, conflict and instability.  Neither could it afford to ignore the refugees that those conflicts had generated.  Western Sahara was an example of a protracted refugee situation, where there were few immediate prospects for durable solutions.  Refugees had lived for far too long in degrading conditions in camps in the desert.

Mr. Lubbers said that in recent years international assistance to refugees had been minimal because of funding problems.  A political solution must be found so that refugees could be given back their dignity and rebuild their lives.  Meanwhile, for as long as there were no durable solutions for them, it was simply unacceptable that programmes to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to those refugees remained underfunded.

Turning to the Balkans, he said it was crucial not to allow donor fatigue to jeopardize the significant progress there in moving towards resolution of the problem of displacement.  The successful return of large numbers of people would ultimately depend not only on continued political reform and democratization, but also on economic revitalization of the fragile economies of the region.  Economic revival was critical, and international financial support continued to be sorely needed in that process.

Addressing the question of Georgia, he said that without commitment by the parties to ensure the security of the civilian population, progress in meting humanitarian needs would remain limited.

Mr. Lubbers said that as East Timor approached independence on 20 May, he was pleased to announce that almost 194,000 East Timorese refugees had been successfully repatriated from West Timor.  The challenge now was to find durable solutions for the 70,000 others who remained in West Timor and other parts of Indonesia.

He said that at the end of 2000, his Office launched the Global Consultations on International Protection, to reflect on how to revitalize the international framework for refugee protection set out in the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, and to assist States in addressing the current humanitarian challenge in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation.  That unique consultative process had brought together representatives of States from all regions of the world, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academics and refugees themselves.  The process would generate an Agenda for Protection, set out concrete goals and actions to strengthen and serve as a guide for the UNHCR, States, NGOs and other protection partners for the years ahead.

As part of the process, he continued, on 12-13 December last year, a ministerial meeting of States Parties to the Convention and Protocol took place in Geneva, co-hosted by the UNHCR and the Swiss Government.  The gathering adopted a landmark Declaration of States Parties, which broke new ground in a number of areas.  The Declaration specifically emphasized the need to ensure respect for the rights and freedoms of refugees, international cooperation to resolve their plight, and action to address the causes of refugee movement and to prevent them from becoming a source of tension between States.

Statements

SICHAN SIV (United States) said it was important, after 50 years of the existence of the UNHCR, that the international community reaffirmed commitment to the protection and care of refugees and provided needed support.  It was unacceptable that the UNHCR remained underfunded, as was the World Food Programme (WFP).  Refugees sometimes went without food supplies.  The United States would continue to provide its fair share of funding.

While his country had undertaken measures to protect its security, it would not permit the 11 September events to compromise its tradition of providing refuge.  However, terrorists must not be allowed to take advantage of the refugee protection system.  That could be prevented through scrupulously applying existing law.  Safety in refugee camps remained an issue.  Refugees must be protected from attacks, recruitment and gender-based violence.  He was also concerned about security of humanitarian workers.  He hoped that Afghan refugees will eventually be able to return in safety and dignity.  It was important that reconstruction efforts be focused on return possibilities.

He also expressed concern about the situation of refugees in Africa, and cautioned against premature repatriation.  He supported efforts for refugee returns in Sierra Leone, but recognized that for many of those refugees the time for return was not right.  The instability in northern Liberia was also a cause of concern.  He encouraged the High Commissioner to address protracted refugee situations and urged refugee-hosting countries to include refugees in their poverty-reduction and development plans.

ANDRES FRANCO (Colombia) underlined the clear message from Mr. Lubbers that the fight against international terrorism must not be incompatible with the right to seek refuge.  The essence of solidarity must be kept intact.  Throughout, security was of the essence.  Secure conditions must be in place for return of refugees and for providing humanitarian aid.  The commitment of Council members to resolve conflicts politically was the best policy available in dealing with refugees and internally displaced persons.

He asked Mr. Lubbers for practical recommendations regarding security in refugee camps and separation of refugees and armed rebels.  As he sometimes felt that no attention was paid to the problems of destination countries, he asked about the emphasis the international community should give to countries of origin and destination.  He also wanted to know how much it cost to rehabilitate a refugee.

YVES DOUTRIAUX (France) said he agreed with Mr. Lubbers that great attention must be paid to Afghanistan without losing sight of the other crises.  “We must not become victims of the CNN effect”, he said.  He stressed that what was important to the Security Council was the formulation of peacekeeping mandates that took the situations of refugees and IDPs into account. The very fact that observers were deployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, created an environment that encouraged the return of refugees and IDPs.  But enough was still not being done in resolutions to address that problem.

He said that every year the Economic and Social Council held a humanitarian segment during its annual substantive session.  Member States were now thinking of themes, and perhaps Mr. Lubbers could say in greater detail what could be done to incorporate refugee concerns in the July meeting of the Economic and Social Council.

FRANÇOIS LONSENY FALL (Guinea) said Africa must continue to get keen attention and he could see that the UNHCR was providing it.  He wanted to know what specific measures were being taken to encourage the last Sierra Leoneans still living in Guinea to return home.

He said the Global Consultations on International Protection were a good initiative.  The Convention on Refugees essentially stated that there were shared responsibilities vis-à-vis refugees, but host countries continued to bear the heaviest burdens.  The situation of IDPs also remained a source of concern, and every possible measure must be taken to restore and consolidate peace in affected countries. 

ALISTAIR HARRISON (United Kingdom) asked Mr. Lubbers if he could give any indication how extension of ISAF’s mandate might influence Afghan refugee flows, and how much the current insecurity represented a restraint on return of refugees. He also asked how the restructuring of the UNHCR had affected response to recent refugee crises.

Mr. LUBBERS, in response to questions, said that 13 months ago he had been forced to draw conclusions from the fact that the budget had been substantially higher than funding -- with a gap of $125 million or 13 per cent of the budget. The organization had to be reduced, a painful operation.  He was concerned that the organization had now reached the absolute minimum.  Each additional challenge, such as the Afghanistan operation which required about $18 million a month, had, therefore, to be met by additional funding.

He said it was not easy to calculate the costs of repatriation.  That matter was related to the question of when refugees could be handed over to other agencies.  Refugees were people without a government to take care of them.  The UNHCR functioned, as it were, as a “minister of the interior”.  As long as there was no government, the UNHCR also provided protection and assistance with the help of other organizations.  It tried to assist returnees in travelling and settling in and sometimes even more.  Efforts were made to hand them over as soon as possible to development agencies.  The UNHCR also dealt with local integration in the country of asylum.  He hoped the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) would consider the issue of local integration.

He said the work of the Economic and Social Council was complementary to the work of the Security Council, but totally different.  However, their efforts were not totally separated in the search for durable solutions.  Referring to the upcoming Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development, he said it was an investment in future security.  If those investments were not made, desperate refugees would turn to criminal networks.

Security in camps and the separation of armed elements and refugees was an important area indeed, he agreed with the Colombian representative.  Progress was being made in that regard, as practices had been developed to encourage a more clear-cut separation of armed elements and refugees.  They had been successfully implemented at the border between Angola and Zambia, for instance.

The security of humanitarian staff was an important responsibility, he said. Almost every month, there were new victims, which was tragic.  Efforts to improve the situation included training personnel and providing new equipment, but those efforts had to be funded by the UNHCR.  He found it strange situation that the United Nations did not consider security of humanitarian staff as one of its core responsibilities.

Regarding the situation in Afghanistan, he saw “two clouds in the sky”. There had been a number of incidents because of which people were fleeing.  He also feared that enthusiasm for return would diminish if there was not sufficient security in the countryside.

GENNADY M. GATILOV (Russian Federation) said Africa’s problems were the most serious because of the strong ethnic component of the continent’s conflicts.  Even though the Council kept its focus on the refugee problem there and supported the efforts of the UNHCR, the situation was still tense.  He condemned the forced migration of people in conflict, as was practised, for example, by the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).

His delegation was also seriously concerned about attacks on international humanitarian personnel.  Perpetrators of such attacks must be punished. Humanitarian assistance could not be used as an instrument of political pressure on any party to a conflict.  Otherwise, instead of being a stabilization force, it would become a factor that fomented conflict.

He believed that the paramount function of the Council must be to establish a political framework for preventing, defusing and ultimately resolving refugee problems.  The actions of the UNHCR must also be purely apolitical, humanitarian and social.  He said that resolution 1373 called on States to determine whether individuals were involved in terrorism or not before granting them asylum.  The criteria used to determine that must be universal, without dual standards.  He called on the Council to look again at the situation in refugee camps to avoid them being turned into terrorist breeding grounds.

CHEN XU (China) said Mr. Lubbers’ overview of the global refugee situation would be helpful to the Council, while his observations on the issue of refugees and terrorism warranted attention.  While providing humanitarian assistance to refugees, the international community must concentrate on the resolution of conflicts and disputes.  Recent action in Sierra Leone and East Timor had produced results in that regard.  The Council must take further similar actions in the future.

He said solutions to refugee problems must take into account the specific and individual attributes and characteristics of countries. Lack of infrastructure hampered relief work for refugees, as was the case in Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.  His delegation also agreed that Africa’s refugee problem should remain a priority.  Countries must be helped to overcome economic difficulties.  If efforts to that end could yield quick results, it would have an important impact on countries and regions, as well as on conflicts.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said the international community must be prompted to make further efforts to address the mounting problems of refugees over the world. Over the coming years, the UNHCR would be confronted with an enormous task. Return and repatriation of refugees were key factors for restoring durable peace.  The root causes of conflict in many parts of the world must not be forgotten.  Many conflicts had their origin in economic and social conditions, inherited from colonialism or foreign occupation, such as in the Middle East region.

Although the problem of refugees in the Middle East did not fall under the UNHCR but under the United Nations system, he said millions of Palestinian refugees remained displaced outside their homeland, having been forced out at gunpoint in 1948.  Half a million Syrian citizens had been displaced by Israel. Contrary to relevant resolutions, including resolution 194 (1948), those refugees remained without any hope.  Israel rejected their return totally, under pretexts that did not fall within the mandates approved by the Council.  Israel had persisted in its position that those refugees did not have the right to return to their homeland the same time as it allowed many people to go to Israel.

He was deeply concerned about the situation of refugees in Africa.  That issue must remain a top priority, he said.  Although he thanked donor countries for the great efforts made to ensure return of refugees to their homelands, he noted that developing countries continued to shoulder a great burden.  He underlined the need for protection of refugees so that their voluntary repatriation could be ensured under conditions of safety and dignity.

WEGGER CHRISTIAN STROMMEN (Norway) said victims of forced displacements were both symptoms of conflicts and a source of new conflicts.  The international community had an obligation to safeguard the human rights of displaced people. Norway had focused on the rights of vulnerable groups, especially women and children.  General efforts were often not enough, as they often were developed from a male perspective.  He, therefore, commended the UNHCR on its gender-mainstreaming.

He said Afghanistan had produced the highest number of refugees.  The security situation was decisive for the return of IDPs and refugees.  Refugees and IDPs must not only be seen as victims, but also as a resource.  Empowerment was a potent tool in that regard, especially for women.

Displaced Liberians and refugees from Sierra Leone had fled once again during the last few weeks, he said.  It illustrated the importance of ensuring the security of refugees.  He hoped appropriate steps were taken for the homecoming of Sierra Leonean refugees.

GERARD CORR (Ireland) referred to the new approach to refugees embodied in the Global Consultations process, as well as the Geneva meeting last December.  He asked Mr. Lubbers whether he saw a set of conclusions emerging that would become operational for the UNHCR and which the international community could look to in the future.

Addressing the issue of refugees who languished in camps for years, he wanted to know what approach would be taken to address that situation.

He also asked Mr. Lubbers whether he viewed the particular challenges in the Great Lakes region as the most complex in the near future.

CHRISTINE LEE (Singapore) said that while the UNHCR could not remain in East Timor indefinitely, she trusted that its exit plans would pay attention to the situation on the ground.  Her delegation welcomed the encouraging steps taken to incorporate a more holistic approach to conflicts.  The previous High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, had observed that humanitarian action alone could not solve problems associated with conflicts.  That observation was still relevant today.

She said hosting large refugee populations put a heavy strain on recipient countries.  Yet, identifying how that problem could be resolved was a task that was still outstanding.  She said, “We must also consider how other parts of the United Nations system can assist and complement the work of the UNHCR.”

Mr. LUBBERS, again reacting to Council members’ comments and questions, said he agreed that there had been a number of successes, which was an invitation to the Council to broaden efforts in regions where there had not been sufficient success.  Peace was essential both to reduce the number of refugees and to encourage refugee return.  Assistance to host countries was also an important element.  The international community had fully accepted the commitment to find solution for refugees, and that principled attitude could only be sustained if there was fair burden-sharing.  Support to host countries was part of that.

He said it was wrong to see refugees and internally displaced persons only in terms of humanitarian assistance.  They must be seen as people who wanted to play a role in society, to become productive again.  Resources and partnerships were badly needed to go beyond humanitarian assistance.  The UNHCR had started in 1951 with the ambition to take care of people who had no government.  Soon afterwards, the United Nations had come to the conclusion that a durable solution for those people was necessary.  That decision had never been made operational, he said, but the time had come to take that step as a way to end protracted situations.

If anything had become clear, he said, it was the need for comprehensive plans to address massive outflows of people.  That had been done with the Kosovars and the Vietnamese boat people.  In any situation where there was a substantial number of people flowing out of a country, say within a year, a comprehensive plan should be developed to share the burden and to see it as a problem of the international community.  By providing solutions for refugees, the international community and the Council were taking risks for the future.  One had to go beyond waiting for the yearly report of the UNHCR.  One of the root causes of crime and trafficking was that solutions were not provided for those people who were the first victims of violence.

In conclusion, he introduced the new Director, UNHCR Liaison Office to the United Nations, Eric E. Morris, to the Security Council.

FELIX MBAYU (Cameroon) said he was grateful that Mr. Lubbers had recommended a continued focus on Africa’s refugee problem, even though it was an issue of dubious distinction.  The NEPAD was a good initiative, but while waiting for its long-term strategies and effects to kick in, something had to be done in the interim.

He asked Mr. Lubbers whether he knew what effect the closing of the UNHCR’s office in Cameroon had had on the country.

Addressing the issue of asylum seekers, he said there had been reports that the system had been abused by UNHCR representatives, who had used it as a conduit for immigration to northern countries.

On Afghanistan, he noted that experience showed that a lack of coordination more often than not diminished the full impact of international interventions.  He asked Mr. Lubbers to shed light on how the UNHCR intended to operate within the whole framework in Afghanistan.

STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria), referring to the western Balkans, said he shared Mr. Lubbers’ analysis.  He wanted, however, to draw attention to the highly delicate situation that continued to prevail in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and to the new problems that might trigger new refugee flows.  Recently, that country had registered an influx of refugees that had now become an impressive percentage of its population.

He said Mr. Lubbers was on target in his description of donor fatigue

vis-à-vis the problems associated with refugees in the Balkans.  The reintegration of refugees into their national settings, however, was still a problem deserving international attention.

KHEMRAJ JINGREE (Mauritius) said it was important that basic human rights were not denied to refugees and IDPs.  That was only possible if organizations  and local NGOs worked together.  Advancing human security should not be the responsibility of the UNHCR alone.  In that regard, he reiterated the need for practical burden-sharing.

There must be a comprehensive regional approach to ensure integration between humanitarian assistance and development strategies, he said.  It was time to bridge the gap between humanitarian emergency assistance and long-term planning for post-conflict situations.

He asked what coordination there was between the UNHCR and other United Nations agencies to ensure Afghan refugees a safe return.

ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico), speaking in his national capacity, said the example of Mexico’s experience with Guatemalan refugees might be applied to problems elsewhere.  One of the elements of that experience was the readiness of the Mexican Government to grant nationality to descendents of refugees born in his country and to their family members.

He hoped the fight against terrorism would not too adversely impact the capacities of the United Nations to help refugees.  Preventing situations which might lead to a refugee problem was a central issue in maintaining international security.  Partnerships were needed at all levels of authority, international, regional and national.  Durable solutions were essential, as the central problem of development was often at the very root of problems of displacement.  In that regard, he asked what the prospect was of establishing strategic associations in order to create an institutional leadership which could bring in the support of other countries.  He also asked how resources might be channelled in such a way that refugees could be helped at the same time as underlying problems were addressed.

Mr. LUBBERS, responding to the question raised on the closing of the UNHCR office in Cameroon, said that decision was imposed by the absolute shortage of funds.  He would, however, look into the effect of the closure on the country.

Responding to the report about abuses of the asylum-seeking system, he confirmed that there had been very serious and criminal acts in Nairobi related to resettlement, and that the UNHCR was investigating the matter with the competent authorities.

Replying to the question raised on UNHCR’s modus operandi in Afghanistan, he said that when the situation there changed and allowed return migration to begin, the UNHCR had made itself available to do that job.  His Office was tasked not only with protection of refugees, but also with finding solutions for them.  The next step was deciding what do with the IDPs who wanted to go home.

He went on to say that in terms of repatriation, no distinction could or would be made between IDPs and refugees.  The operation had to be integrated.  “Our plan for repatriation and protection of refugees and IDPs is based on a partnership operation”, he said.  The UNHCR could not do it alone.  That partnership would include other entities of the United Nations system, and organizations outside of that system such as the International Committee of the

Red Cross (ICRC) and NGOs.  The overall approach was one of partnership based on inclusiveness, under Mr. Brahimi’s leadership and the United Nations umbrella.

Addressing the point raised about the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, he said that country had received a large influx of Albanians, and the UNHCR was now involved in a process of confidence-building, securing full rights for Albanians there, and acquiring citizenship for them.  He was confident that the process would be successful.

In closing, he said he was prepared to come back more formally with a written strategy about UNHCR’s way forward in the future.

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For information media. Not an official record.