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UNHCR helps Nicaragua interview 49 asylum seekers

News Stories, 23 January 2008

© UNHCR/C.Mateos
The migration centre in Managua where the asylum seekers have been held.

MEXICO CITY, Mexico, January 23 (UNHCR) UNHCR officials flew to Nicaragua from Mexico this week to help the government interview 49 people, including three unaccompanied minors, who have asked for asylum after recently arriving in the country.

Many of the asylum seekers, originating from Angola, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Somalia and South Africa, arrived in Nicaragua by sea. UNHCR officials said it was unusual for such a large group of asylum seekers to arrive in Nicaragua at about the same time.

Many of the new arrivals are believed to have stowed away on ocean-going ships in Africa and were apparently forced off the vessels when they arrived near the coast of Central America.

Initial reports indicate that a number of other stowaways perished during the sea journey. Some of the petitioners are ill and have alleged that they are the victims of torture.

UNHCR officials flew to Nicaragua on Monday and have interviewed the asylum seekers, who are being held at a migration holding centre in the capital, Managua. Arrangements are being made to allow the asylum seekers to leave the centre while their applications are studied.

The group of 49 includes three unaccompanied minors. They are expected to be transferred later this week to a shelter run by a local non-governmental organization.

The arrival of the asylum seekers comes at a time when Nicaragua is close to finalizing national refugee legislation. "Nicaragua has a long tradition of providing international protection to asylum seekers, and has worked very closely with UNHCR over the years," noted Kevin Allen, senior regional protection officer with the refugee agency.

"UNHCR is pleased to provide technical support to the government of Nicaragua during the adjudication of these 49 asylum petitions, and we look forward to working with legislators who aim to pass a refugee law which will further strengthen the asylum system in Nicaragua," Allen added.

© UNHCR
The broad migration routes from South America and the Caribbean to North America. Refugees and asylum seekers are found travelling these routes alongside irregular migrants.

Nicaragua is one of several countries that lie on a major migration route from South America to the United States and Canada. UNHCR has noted that increasing numbers of refugees and asylum seekers are included in mixed migration flows.

Those following this south-north migration route include people from Central and South America as well as people from beyond the region notably Africa and Asia who arrive in Central America, South America and the Caribbean, sometimes by boat.

The UN refugee agency regularly calls on ship captains to treat stowaways humanely and has also expressed concern that people coming from Africa and Asia are taking such long and dangerous routes to find protection.

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UNHCR country pages

Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration: A 10-Point Plan of Action

A UNHCR strategy setting out key areas in which action is required to address the phenomenon of mixed and irregular movements of people. See also: Schematic representation of a profiling and referral mechanism in the context of addressing mixed migratory movements.

International Migration

The link between movements of refugees and broader migration attracts growing attention.

Mixed Migration

Migrants are different from refugees but the two sometimes travel alongside each other.

Asylum-Seekers

UNHCR advocates fair and efficient procedures for asylum-seekers

Asylum and Migration

Asylum and Migration

All in the same boat: The challenges of mixed migration around the world.

Zero-Star "Hotel" that Asylum-Seekers Call Home in Dijon

France is one of the main destinations for asylum-seekers in Europe, with some 55,000 new asylum applications in 2012. As a result of the growing number of applicants, many French cities are facing an acute shortage of accommodation for asylum-seekers.

The government is trying to address the problem and, in February 2013, announced the creation of 4,000 additional places in state-run reception centres for asylum-seekers. But many asylum-seekers are still forced to sleep rough or to occupy empty buildings. One such building, dubbed the "Refugee Hotel" by its transient population, lies on the outskirts of the eastern city of Dijon. It illustrates the critical accommodation situation.

The former meat-packing plant is home to about 100 asylum-seekers, mostly from Chad, Mali and Somalia, but also from Georgia, Kosovo and other Eastern European countries. Most are single men, but there are also two families.

In this dank, rat-infested empty building, the pipes leak and the electricity supply is sporadic. There is only one lavatory, two taps with running water, no bathing facilities and no kitchen. The asylum-seekers sleep in the former cold-storage rooms. The authorities have tried to close the squat several times. These images, taken by British photographer Jason Tanner, show the desperate state of the building and depict the people who call it home.

Zero-Star "Hotel" that Asylum-Seekers Call Home in Dijon

Statelessness in the Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic, UNHCR runs programmes that benefit refugees and asylum-seekers from Haiti as well as migrants and members of their family born in the country, some of whom could be stateless or at risk of becoming stateless. Many live in bateyes, which are destitute communities on once thriving sugar cane plantations. The inhabitants have been crossing over from Haiti for decades to work in the sugar trade.

Among these initiatives, UNHCR provides legal aid, academic remedial courses and vocational training for refugees and asylum-seekers. They also support entrepreneurial initiatives and access to micro credit.

UNHCR also has an increased presence in border communities in order to promote peaceful coexistence between Dominican and Haitian populations. The UN refugee agency has found that strengthening the agricultural production capacities of both groups promotes integration and mitigates tension.

Many Haitians and Dominicans living in the dilapidated bateyes are at risk of statelessness. Stateless people are not considered as nationals by any country. This can result in them having trouble accessing and exercising basic rights, including education and medical care as well as employment, travel and housing. UNHCR aims to combat statelessness by facilitating the issuance of birth certificates for people living in the bateyes.

Statelessness in the Dominican Republic

The makeshift camp at Patras

Thousands of irregular migrants, some of whom are asylum-seekers and refugees, have sought shelter in a squalid, makeshift camp close to the Greek port of Patras since it opened 13 years ago. The camp consisted of shelters constructed from cardboard and wood and housed hundreds of people when it was closed by the Greek government in July 2009. UNHCR had long maintained that it did not provide appropriate accommodation for asylum-seekers and refugees. The agency had been urging the government to find an alternative and put a stronger asylum system in place to provide appropriate asylum reception facilities for the stream of irregular migrants arriving in Greece each year.The government used bulldozers to clear the camp, which was destroyed by a fire shortly afterwards. All the camp residents had earlier been moved and there were no casualties. Photographer Zalmaï, a former refugee from Afghanistan, visited the camp earlier in the year.

The makeshift camp at Patras

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The Italy Navy rescues hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers on the high seas as the numbers of people undertaking the crossing of the Mediterranean from North Africa grows.
Italy: Waiting for AsylumPlay video

Italy: Waiting for Asylum

Sicily has a high number of asylum-seekers because of its location in the south of Italy. In 2011, Cara Mineo was set up to provide asylum-seekers with a place to live while their applications were processed. Today, more than 4,000 people stay there and must wait up to a year for a decision on their applications.
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