High Commissioner Guterres heads to Tajikistan

Briefing Notes, 28 March 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 28 March 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

High Commissioner António Guterres starts a three-day visit to the Republic of Tajikistan on Monday. He is expected to meet President Emomali Rahmon and various other key ministers. They will discuss improvement of the national asylum systems in the country; the integration of some 1,000 Afghans who have been refugees in Tajikistan for up to 20 years; and further cooperation between UNHCR and the country. Over the past 15 years, UNHCR has enjoyed an excellent working relationship with the Government of Tajikistan.

In the course of the visit, the High Commissioner will also participate in the official opening of vocational training projects established at a refugee training centre in Dushanbe.

In 1993, Tajikistan was the first country in Central Asia to accede to the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol on the status of refugees. It was also the first country to adopt national refugee legislation. Tajikistan currently hosts 1,710 refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from Afghanistan.

This is the third mission the High Commissioner has made to Central Asia, following his visits to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in November last year. He is also planning to visit Turkmenistan in the near future.

Prior to his Central Asia mission, Mr. Guterres will attend an Arab heads summit in Damascus, Syria, over the weekend.




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The High Commissioner

António Guterres, who joined UNHCR on June 15, 2005, is the UN refugee agency's 10th High Commissioner.

2015 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presents the Nansen medal to Afghan refugee, Aqeela Asifi in Geneva, Switzerland.

Asifi, 49, has dedicated her life to bringing education to refugee girls in Pakistan. Despite minimal resources and significant cultural challenges, Asifi - a former teacher who fled from Kabul with her family in 1992 - has guided over a thousand refugee girls through primary education in the Kot Chandana refugee village in Mianwali, Pakistan.

Before she arrived, strict cultural traditions kept most girls at home. But she was determined to give these girls a chance and began teaching just a handful of pupils in a makeshift school tent.

UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award honours extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced, and names Eleanor Roosevelt, Graça Machel and Luciano Pavarotti among its laureates. Speakers and performers at today's award ceremony include UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Ger Duany, Unicef Goodwill Ambassador and singer Angelique Kidjo and visual artist Cedric Cassimo.

Afghanistan is the largest, most protracted refugee crisis in the world. Over 2.6 million Afghans currently live in exile and over half of them are children.

2015 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

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Situated some 120 kilometres from the dangerous border area with Nigeria in Cameroon's Far North region, Minawao camp is currently home to 33,000 Nigerian refugees, mainly from Borno state. Many of the arrivals are traumatized and in need of material and psycho-social help. They told the High Commissioner of losing their homes and belongings as well as members of their families. Some were injured. In total, an estimated 74,000 Nigerians have found refuge in Cameroon while cross-border incursions from Nigeria have displaced 96,000 Cameroonians. UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux also visited Minawao to hear the individual stories.

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