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Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias calls on High Commissioner Guterres

News Stories, 7 June 2006

© UNHCR/S.Hopper
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias shares a joke with UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. The Nobel peace laureate discussed refugee issues and regional developments in Latin America during a visit to the UN refugee agency headquarters in Geneva.

GENEVA, 7 June (UNHCR) President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica and UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres met in Geneva today and held talks on refugee protection and regional developments in Latin America.

Guterres thanked his visitor for Costa Rican efforts to promote the local integration of refugees and stressed the importance of the 1984 Cartagena Declaration, which broadened the refugee definition used in Latin America and offered an innovative approach to refugee protection and solutions.

"We are encouraged by the proposed revision of the new immigration legislation in Costa Rica," Guterres said. UNHCR participated in the drafting of the law by providing expert comments and technical advice.

In 1987, during a previous term as Costa Rican president, Arias won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring peace to the volatile Central America region. Arias ran again for president in February this year and took office in May. He is in Geneva to visit some of the main international organisations, before travelling to Germany and Italy.

Costa Rica has a long tradition of refugee protection and played an important role in bringing to an end the conflicts that raged in Central America during the 1980s, when the region was one of the main battlegrounds of the Cold War.

As a result of conflicts in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, some two million people became refugees or displaced within their own countries. Today, Costa Rica hosts one of the largest refugee populations in Latin America there are officially more than 13,000 refugees, mostly from Colombia.

Costa Rica plays a key role within the Mexico Plan of Action, a regional initiative based on solidarity which puts forward a set of concrete solutions to the plight of refugees and the internally displaced in Latin America. The Costa Rican government has also been supportive of UNHCR's programme to resettle emergency cases.

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