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Christmas Message for Refugees by Dr. Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 22 December 1954

Statements by High Commissioner, 22 December 1954

Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Dr. G. J. van Heuven Goedhart, has sent the following Christmas message to the approximately 80,000 refugees within his mandate who are still living in the 200 refugee camps in Europe:

"Last Christmas I sent message to you all saying that you were not being forgotten. During the year that has passed, I hope you have seen proof that these were not empty words. We cannot be satisfied with what has been accomplished as long as so many of you have still to find shelter in a camp. We must continue to look forward and work together to hasten the day when you can leave the camp for a real home of your own.

"Today this may still seem a mere dream to you. Having said goodbye to so many of your camp neighbours, you may be wondering whether your turn will ever come. But there is no reason why you should despair. True, your opportunity may perhaps not be overseas but in the country where you are living now.

"The United Nations General Assembly this year agreed on a programme which is to help you in your efforts to establish yourselves.

"We shall begin this programme in the coming year. Our efforts will have the support of the peoples of the United Nations, the Government of the country where you are living, and of the voluntary agencies. We hope through our plans to help you in your own efforts to become established. We shall start vocational training programmes, housing schemes, placement schemes in agriculture and industry, and continue with our efforts to find homes for the old and the ill. In addition, the people of several countries are bringing money together to help you.

"It is, therefore, with a lighter heart than last year that I am sending you my best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. May the time soon come when you will be sitting round a fire in a room you can truly call your home. And let us in 1955 work hard together to achieve that goal."

"May the time soon come when you will be sitting round a fire in a room you can truly call your home."

In his message the High Commissioner refers to the emigration and integration programme which was approved by the General Assembly on 21 October 1954 and which will be financed from the new United Nations Refugee Fund (UNREF). A governmental target of $12,000,000 for the four year period 1955-1958 (the term of the High Commissioner's current mandate) has been set for the Programme, and Governments of States Members and non-Members of the United Nations which are interested in the refugee problem will be asked to contribute. Voluntary contributions from private sources can provide valuable support by increasing the tempo of the work. In addition, UNREF will continue to give emergency assistance to those refugees in the greatest need and in particular to find places in institutions and Old People's Homes for the "difficult cases". An annual target of $1,000,000 has been set for this emergency aid.

Copies of the High Commissioner's Christmas message printed in the local language will be displayed in all refugee camps in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy and Trieste.




Colombia: Life in the Barrios

After more than forty years of internal armed conflict, Colombia has one of the largest populations of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world. Well over two million people have been forced to flee their homes; many of them have left remote rural areas to take refuge in the relative safety of the cities.

Displaced families often end up living in slum areas on the outskirts of the big cities, where they lack even the most basic services. Just outside Bogota, tens of thousands of displaced people live in the shantytowns of Altos de Cazuca and Altos de Florida, with little access to health, education or decent housing. Security is a problem too, with irregular armed groups and gangs controlling the shantytowns, often targeting young people.

UNHCR is working with the authorities in ten locations across Colombia to ensure that the rights of internally displaced people are fully respected – including the rights to basic services, health and education, as well as security.

Colombia: Life in the Barrios

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

With elections scheduled in October, 2004 is a crucial year for the future of Afghanistan, and Afghans are returning to their homeland in record numbers. In the first seven months of 2004 alone, more than half a million returned from exile. In all, more than 3.6 million Afghans have returned since UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme started in 2002.

The UN refugee agency and its partner organisations are working hard to help the returnees rebuild their lives in Afghanistan. Returnees receive a grant to cover basic needs, as well as access to medical facilities, immunisations and landmine awareness training.

UNHCR's housing programme provides tool kits and building supplies for families to build new homes where old ones have been destroyed. The agency also supports the rehabilitation of public buildings as well as programmes to rehabilitate the water supply, vocational training and cash-for-work projects.

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

After Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in Iraq in 2003, groups of refugees who had lived in the country for many years tried to leave the chaos and lawlessness that soon ensued. Hundreds of people started fleeing to the border with Jordan, including Palestinians in Baghdad and Iranian Kurds from the Al Tash refugee camp in central Iraq.

Aside from a few Palestinians with family connections inside the neighbouring country, the refugees were refused entry and free movement in Jordan. Thousands were soon stranded in the no-man's land between Iraq and Jordan or at the desert camp of Ruweished, located 60 kilometres inside Jordan.

Since 2003, Palestinians, Iranian Kurds, Iranians, Sudanese and Somalis have been living there and suffering the scorching heat and freezing winters of the Jordanian desert. UNHCR and its partners have provided housing and assistance and tried to find solutions – the agency has helped resettle more than 1,000 people in third countries. At the beginning of 2007, a total of 119 people – mostly Palestinians – remained in Ruweished camp without any immediate solution in sight.

Posted on 20 February 2007

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

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