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UNHCR chief discusses southern Africa with Lesotho leader

News Stories, 10 June 2008

© UNHCR/S.Hopper
High Commissioner Guterres and Lesotho Prime Minister Mosisili look at UNHCR's Nobel Peace Prize medals.

GENEVA, June 10 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili met in Geneva on Tuesday and discussed the situation in South Africa, including a recent wave of xenophobic attacks on foreigners.

The two men, during a wide-ranging discussion in the Geneva headquarters of the UN refugee agency, also discussed UNHCR's operations in the region and the emerging role of regional bodies, such as the South African Development Community (SADC), in addressing the growing challenge of mixed migration and contributing to stability in the region.

On the subject of South Africa, Guterres stressed that the recent wave of xenophobic attacks were the result of extreme poverty. "In such situations scapegoats are often foreigners, including refugees and asylum seekers," Guterres said. "But xenophobia is not specific to South Africa it is a global problem and we see it also in some developed countries," he added.

Attacks during a two-week period last month left some 60 people dead, according to police, and tens of thousands of foreigners homeless around the country. UNHCR condemned the violence and immediately responded to this crisis. The High Commissioner stressed that his office in Pretoria continues to work closely with the South African government, helping it to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of the victims.

Following the meeting, Mosisili visited UNHCR's Emergency Operations Room, where he was briefed on the agency's emergency response capacities and the ability to almost instantly deploy staff and resources where needed such as in recent natural disasters in Myanmar and China.

UNHCR staff also briefed the Prime Minister on a first UNHCR layer in the innovative Google Earth programme. This powerful online mapping tool provides an up-close and multifaceted view of some of the world's major displacement crises and the humanitarian efforts aimed at helping the victims.

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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.

2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented Sister Angélique Namaika of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award at a gala ceremony in Geneva on Monday night.

Sister Angélique, through her Centre for Reintegration and Development, has helped transform the lives of more than 2,000 women and girls who had been forced from their homes and abused by fighters of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) or other armed groups. Many of those she helps suffered abduction, forced labour, beatings, murder, rape or other human rights abuses.

The Roman Catholic nun helps survivors to heal by offering them the chance to learn a trade, start a small business or go to school. Testimonies from these women show the remarkable effect she has had on helping turn around their lives, with many affectionately calling her "mother."

The Award ceremony featured a keynote speech from best-selling author Paulo Coelho and musical performances by singer-songwriter Dido, Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna and Grammy-nominated Malian musicians, Amadou and Mariam.

2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

2014 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented the Colombian women's rights group, Butterflies with New Wings Building a Future, with the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday night.

The volunteer members of Butterflies risk their lives each day to help survivors of forced displacement and sexual abuse in the Pacific Coast city of Buenaventura. This city has some of the highest rates of violence and displacement due to escalating rivalries between illegal armed groups.

Drawing on only the most modest of resources, volunteers cautiously move through the most dangerous neighbourhoods to help women access medical care and report crimes. This work, deep inside the communities, helps them reach the most vulnerable women, but also brings with it danger and threats from the illegal armed groups.

The Award ceremony, in its 60th year, was held in Geneva's Bâtiment des Forces Motrices, and featured musical performances by UNHCR supporters, Swedish-Lebanese singer-songwriter Maher Zain and Malian singer-songwriter Rokia Traoré. The Mexican acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela also performed at the ceremony.

2014 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

On 1 August, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres travelled to northern Burkina Faso with the United States' Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BRPM), Anne Richard. In Damba camp, they met with Malian refugees who had fled northern Mali in the past six months to escape the ongoing conflict and political instability. To date, more than 250,000 Malian refugees have fled their homes and found refuge in neighbouring countries, including 107,000 in Burkina Faso alone. The UN refugee agency has only received one-third of the US$153 million it needs to provide life-saving assistance such as shelter, water, sanitation, health services, nutrition and protection to the refugees. UNHCR fears that the volatile political and humanitarian situation in Mali could lead to further outflows to neighbouring countries.

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

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