UNHCR chief meets Pope Francis to discuss refugee issues

News Stories, 6 December 2013

© Osservatore Romano
Pope Francis discusses refugee issues with High Commissioner Guterres in the Vatican today.

ROME, Italy, December 6 (UNHCR) Pope Francis discussed the plight of millions of forcibly displaced people around the world with UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Friday during a private audience in Vatican City.

Guterres expressed his deep appreciation for the Pope's work in bringing public attention to refugees and internally displaced people, as well as putting a spotlight on the dangerous land and sea journeys that some asylum-seekers and migrants take.

The High Commissioner welcomed the Pope's recent calls for enhanced efforts to save lives in the Mediterranean, at a time when increasing numbers of people, including refugees from Syria, Eritrea and Somalia, are crossing the Mediterranean by irregular sea routes to reach Europe.

Guterres told Pope Francis about UNHCR's Strategy on Protection At Sea, which focuses on enhancing rescue, promoting protection from exploitation and abuse as well as establishing protection-sensitive responses after disembarkation.

Pope Francis and the High Commissioner also shared their worries about the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the need for massive support to neighbouring countries, now hosting more than 2.2 million refugees.

The High Commissioner spoke of his concern at reports of some European Union countries placing barriers or forcibly returning refugees, including people fleeing the conflict in Syria. He noted that UNHCR has called for a global moratorium on returns to Syria and neighbouring countries.

The two men also discussed UNHCR's efforts to reach out to faith leaders, including through a December 2012 "Dialogue on Faith and Protection." In October, Pope Francis met 2013 Nansen Refugee Award winner Angélique Namaika, a Roman Catholic nun from Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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Italy: High Commissioner Guterres Meets Pope FrancisPlay video

Italy: High Commissioner Guterres Meets Pope Francis

Pope Francis and High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres discuss refugees issues in the Vatican today.

The High Commissioner

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

Victims of Conflict in Nigeria Find Safety in Cameroon Camp

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visited Cameroon in late March to put a spotlight on the situation there of tens of thousands of refugees from Nigeria. These people have escaped mounting violence by insurgents in the north-east of their country. Among the places that Guterres visited during his March 24-25 visit is the Minawao Refugee Camp, where many of the uprooted have been relocated.

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.

Victims of Conflict in Nigeria Find Safety in Cameroon Camp

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

Cameroon: High Commissioner Meets Nigerian RefugeesPlay video

Cameroon: High Commissioner Meets Nigerian Refugees

In Minawao camp, Cameroon, Nigerian refugees get a chance to tell their stories to High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres during his visit.
Jordan: Winter Camp VisitPlay video

Jordan: Winter Camp Visit

Syrian refugees living in Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan are still trying to overcome the damage done by the storm that hit the region last week. On his second day visiting Jordan, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres visited the camp to see the impact of the damage. He was also able to hand them the key to their new home, a caravan that arrived part of a convoy to help those living in tents at the camp.
UNHCR: An Appeal for AfricaPlay video

UNHCR: An Appeal for Africa

The High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, called for more attention and help for African nations dealing with new and old displacements.