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Repatriation to Guatemala

Briefing Notes, 25 June 1999

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 25 June 1999, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Yesterday, 24 June, the last organized repatriation movement took place of a group of Guatemalan refugees going home from Mexico. A total of 167 refugees left the Mexican states of Quintana Roo, Campeche and Chiapas to return home. They are going back to the departments of Huehuetenango and Quetzaltenango.

This last group repatriation brought to around 43,000 the number of Guatemalan refugees who have returned home from Mexico with the help of UNHCR and of the Mexican Commission for Aid to Refugees (COMAR). UNHCR has invested $28 million in repatriation and reintegration programmes for this group within Guatemala.

Guatemalan refugees began arriving in Mexico in 1982, fleeing the civil conflict in their country. Around 45,000 arrived between 1982 and 1984.

Those refugees who did not wish to return home have been able to become permanent residents of Mexico or to apply for Mexican citizenship, thanks to the government 1996 programme called the "Migratory Stabilization Plan for Guatemalan Refugees." Close to 23,000 refugees have decided to take advantage of the option to stay in Mexico and to integrate locally. (The number of returnees plus those settled locally is higher than arrivals because of birth rate.)

Some refugees have already obtained Mexican citizenship. Today there will be another naturalization ceremony today in Campeche, in the settlement of Los Laureles, where another nearly 200 refugees will receive their citizenship papers, bringing to around 1,200 the number of refugees who have become Mexican citizens.

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Repatriation

UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

Statelessness in Viet Nam

Viet Nam's achievements in granting citizenship to thousands of stateless people over the last two years make the country a global leader in ending and preventing statelessness.

Left stateless after the 1975 collapse of the bloody Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, nearly 1,400 former Cambodian refugees received citizenship in Viet Nam in 2010, the culmination of five years of cooperation between the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Vietnamese government. Most of the former refugees have lived in Viet Nam since 1975, all speak Vietnamese and have integrated fully. Almost 1,000 more are on track to get their citizenship in the near future. With citizenship comes the all-important family registration book that governs all citizens' interactions with the government in Viet Nam, as well as a government identification card. These two documents allow the new citizens to purchase property, attend universities and get health insurance and pensions. The documents also allow them to do simple things they could not do before, such as own a motorbike.

Viet Nam also passed a law in 2009 to restore citizenship to Vietnamese women who became stateless in the land of their birth after they married foreign men, but divorced before getting foreign citizenship for them and their children.

UNHCR estimates that up to 12 million people around the world are currently stateless.

Statelessness in Viet Nam

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

The UN refugee agency has successfully completed the voluntary repatriation of 38 Tanzanian refugees from Zanzibar who had been residing in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu, for more than a decade. The group, comprising 12 families, was flown on two special UNHCR-chartered flights from Mogadishu to Zanzibar on July 6, 2012. From there, seven families were accompanied back to their home villages on Pemba Island, while five families opted to remain and restart their lives on the main Zanzibar island of Unguja. The heads of households were young men when they left Zanzibar in January 2001, fleeing riots and violence following the October 2000 elections there. They were among 2,000 refugees who fled from the Tanzanian island of Pemba. The remainder of the Tanzanian refugee community in Mogadishu, about 70 people, will wait and see how the situation unfolds for those who went back before making a final decision on their return.

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

Statelessness in Kyrgyzstan

Two decades after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, thousands of people in former Soviet republics like Kyrgyzstan are still facing problems with citizenship. UNHCR has identified more than 20,000 stateless people in the Central Asian nation. These people are not considered as nationals under the laws of any country. While many in principle fall under the Kyrgyz citizenship law, they have not been confirmed as nationals under the existing procedures.

Most of the stateless people in Kyrgyzstan have lived there for many years, have close family links in the country and are culturally and socially well-integrated. But because they lack citizenship documents, these folk are often unable to do the things that most people take for granted, including registering a marriage or the birth of a child, travelling within Kyrgyzstan and overseas, receiving pensions or social allowances or owning property. The stateless are more vulnerable to economic hardship, prone to higher unemployment and do not enjoy full access to education and medical services.

Since independence in 1991, Kyrgyzstan has taken many positive steps to reduce and prevent statelessness. And UNHCR, under its statelessness mandate, has been assisting the country by providing advice on legislation and practices as well as giving technical assistance to those charged with solving citizenship problems. The refugee agency's NGO partners provide legal counselling to stateless people and assist them in their applications for citizenship.

However, statelessness in Kyrgyzstan is complex and thousands of people, mainly women and children, still face legal, administrative and financial hurdles when seeking to confirm or acquire citizenship. In 2009, with the encouragement of UNHCR, the government adopted a national action plan to prevent and reduce statelessness. In 2011, the refugee agency will help revise the plan and take concrete steps to implement it. A concerted effort by all stakeholders is needed so that statelessness does not become a lingering problem for future generations.

Statelessness in Kyrgyzstan

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Mexico: Fleeing Central American Gang Violence

Tens of thousands of people make their way to Mexico on mixed migration routes every year. They include victims of gang violence who need protection.
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Tanzania: Road to Citizenship

In 2007, UNHCR and the government of Tanzania gave him a choice: return home or become Tanzanian. It was an easy decision for Michael Sheltieri Namoya.
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Stateless in the United States

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