UNHCR chief praises Australia's refugee resettlement services

News Stories, 25 February 2009

© UNHCR/B.Farrell
High Commissioner António Guterres with Australia's Minister for Immigration Chris Evans after their meeting in Canberra.

SYDNEY, Australia, February 25 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres paid tribute on Wednesday to Australia for the welcome and services it provides to refugees in communities around the nation.

"Australia has one of the best refugee resettlement programmes in the world," Guterres said during a visit to the Fairfield Migrant Resource Centre in Sydney, adding that he had conveyed this message to Minister for Immigration Chris Evans during a meeting on Monday in Canberra.

"It has been wonderful to speak to refugees and former refugees about their experiences since being welcomed to Australia," added the High Commissioner, who on Tuesday visited refugee communities in Sydney and Melbourne. "Australia has a proud history of welcoming refugees into the community, and that has been reflected in many of the personal stories I have heard."

Guterres said he looked forward to "continued and close cooperation with the government and civil society to help refugees here and worldwide." He was due to make an address later Wednesday about the importance of government and donors maintaining generous support for humanitarian projects in the face of the global financial crisis. Australia announced on Monday that it will increase its aid to international efforts to resettle refugees this fiscal year by almost a third.

The High Commissioner was due to leave Australia late Wednesday for New Zealand, where he will discuss refugee issues with government officials and non-governmental organizations. New Zealand is also a resettlement country.

"New Zealand resettles around 750 refugees and provides additional sponsored family reunification for 300 family members of refugees each year," Guterres noted, while adding that the country "has an excellent reputation for welcoming refugees and assisting them with the education, health and other services they need to make a new and successful life."

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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.

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

Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie joined UNHCR chief António Guterres on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where they met with boat people who have fled unrest in North Africa.

More than 40,000 people, including refugees and asylum-seekers, have crossed the Mediterranean on overcrowded boats and descended on the small island since the beginning of the year.

The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador flew to Lampedusa from Malta, which has also been a destination for people fleeing North Africa by boat.

Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

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

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