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Christmas Message for Refugees by Dr. Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 22 December 1954

Statements by High Commissioner, 22 December 1954

Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Dr. G. J. van Heuven Goedhart, has sent the following Christmas message to the approximately 80,000 refugees within his mandate who are still living in the 200 refugee camps in Europe:

"Last Christmas I sent message to you all saying that you were not being forgotten. During the year that has passed, I hope you have seen proof that these were not empty words. We cannot be satisfied with what has been accomplished as long as so many of you have still to find shelter in a camp. We must continue to look forward and work together to hasten the day when you can leave the camp for a real home of your own.

"Today this may still seem a mere dream to you. Having said goodbye to so many of your camp neighbours, you may be wondering whether your turn will ever come. But there is no reason why you should despair. True, your opportunity may perhaps not be overseas but in the country where you are living now.

"The United Nations General Assembly this year agreed on a programme which is to help you in your efforts to establish yourselves.

"We shall begin this programme in the coming year. Our efforts will have the support of the peoples of the United Nations, the Government of the country where you are living, and of the voluntary agencies. We hope through our plans to help you in your own efforts to become established. We shall start vocational training programmes, housing schemes, placement schemes in agriculture and industry, and continue with our efforts to find homes for the old and the ill. In addition, the people of several countries are bringing money together to help you.

"It is, therefore, with a lighter heart than last year that I am sending you my best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. May the time soon come when you will be sitting round a fire in a room you can truly call your home. And let us in 1955 work hard together to achieve that goal."

"May the time soon come when you will be sitting round a fire in a room you can truly call your home."

In his message the High Commissioner refers to the emigration and integration programme which was approved by the General Assembly on 21 October 1954 and which will be financed from the new United Nations Refugee Fund (UNREF). A governmental target of $12,000,000 for the four year period 1955-1958 (the term of the High Commissioner's current mandate) has been set for the Programme, and Governments of States Members and non-Members of the United Nations which are interested in the refugee problem will be asked to contribute. Voluntary contributions from private sources can provide valuable support by increasing the tempo of the work. In addition, UNREF will continue to give emergency assistance to those refugees in the greatest need and in particular to find places in institutions and Old People's Homes for the "difficult cases". An annual target of $1,000,000 has been set for this emergency aid.

Copies of the High Commissioner's Christmas message printed in the local language will be displayed in all refugee camps in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy and Trieste.




A New Camp, a New Home: A Syrian Family in Azraq

On April 30, 2014, the Jordanian government formally opened a new refugee camp in the desert east of Jordan's capital, Amman. UNHCR will help run Azraq camp, which was opened to relieve the pressure in Za'atri camp. There are currently nearly 5,000 shelters in Azraq, capable of housing up to 25,000 refugees. The first group to arrive included 47-year-old Abu Saleh and his family, who had made the long journey from northern Syria's Al-Hassakeh camp to Jordan. "When the fighting reached our village, I feared for my wife and children's lives, and we decided to leave and find safety in Jordan," said Abu Saleh, 47. The family were farmers, but in the past two years they were unable to grow any crops and lived without running water and electricity. He said the family wanted to stay in a place where they felt safe, both physically and mentally, until they could return home. Photographer Jared Kohler followed the family on their journey from the border to Azraq Camp.

A New Camp, a New Home: A Syrian Family in Azraq

Iraq: Massive displacement from Mosul

In the past few days, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have fled fighting in the northern city of Mosul and other areas. UNHCR staff are on the ground to monitor the outflow and help those in need. The needs are immense, but UNHCR is working to provide shelter, protection, and emergency items, including tents. Many of the displaced left their homes without belongings and some lack money for housing, food, water or medical care. They arrive at checkpoints between Ninewa governorate and the Kurdistan region with no idea of where to go next, or how to pay expenses.

UN agencies, humanitarian groups, and government officials are coordinating efforts to do what they can to aid those in need. UN agencies are making an emergency request for additional support. UNHCR is hoping to provide emergency kits as well as thousands of tents. UNHCR and its partners will also be working to protect and help the displaced.

The exodus in the north comes on top of massive displacement this year in the western Iraqi governorate of Anbar, where fighting since January has forced some half-a-million people to flee the province or seek shelter in safer areas.

Iraq: Massive displacement from Mosul

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

With elections scheduled in October, 2004 is a crucial year for the future of Afghanistan, and Afghans are returning to their homeland in record numbers. In the first seven months of 2004 alone, more than half a million returned from exile. In all, more than 3.6 million Afghans have returned since UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme started in 2002.

The UN refugee agency and its partner organisations are working hard to help the returnees rebuild their lives in Afghanistan. Returnees receive a grant to cover basic needs, as well as access to medical facilities, immunisations and landmine awareness training.

UNHCR's housing programme provides tool kits and building supplies for families to build new homes where old ones have been destroyed. The agency also supports the rehabilitation of public buildings as well as programmes to rehabilitate the water supply, vocational training and cash-for-work projects.

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

Jordan: Syrian Refugees' Housing CrisisPlay video

Jordan: Syrian Refugees' Housing Crisis

Hundreds of thousands of refugees living in urban areas are struggling to survive. They face rising rents, inadequate accommodation, and educational challenges for their children.