Ibero-American Summit

Briefing Notes, 3 November 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 3 November 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR welcomes the forthcoming meeting on migration of the Ibero-American Summit in Uruguay this weekend and calls on its 22 member states to use this opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to refugees.

Refugees account for a relatively small portion of the millions of people on the move around the world today and UNHCR has consistently underlined the difference between migrants and refugees. But while migration and asylum are distinct experiences, they are becoming increasingly linked, with many refugees travelling alongside migrants to reach a place of safety. Recognising this link is essential to ensure that migration management is consistent with human rights and refugee protection.

During the two-day summit, 19 Latin American states, as well as Spain, Portugal and Andorra, will seek to establish a collaborative framework to handle migration movements within their region. UNHCR, which will take part as an observer, is well aware of the challenges of dealing with mixed population movements, especially in countries that receive large numbers of illegal migrants. We welcome all efforts to find solutions that foster development and uphold the rights of refugees and others in need of international protection.

We also stress that the right to asylum must be an integral part of any migratory framework. We are increasingly providing practical support to help states fulfil their obligations to refugees caught up in such mixed migration movements. For example, we can provide technical expertise to help develop and put in place clear procedures to identify people in need of international protection.

Earlier this year, UNHCR issued a 10-Point Plan of Action outlining its commitment to help the international community address the issue of mixed migration in a coherent and collaborative manner

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Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration: A 10-Point Plan of Action

A UNHCR strategy setting out key areas in which action is required to address the phenomenon of mixed and irregular movements of people. See also: Schematic representation of a profiling and referral mechanism in the context of addressing mixed migratory movements.

International Migration

The link between movements of refugees and broader migration attracts growing attention.

Mixed Migration

Migrants are different from refugees but the two sometimes travel alongside each other.

Asylum and Migration

Asylum and Migration

All in the same boat: The challenges of mixed migration around the world.

Drifting Towards Italy

Every year, Europe's favourite summer playground - the Mediterranean Sea - turns into a graveyard as hundreds of men, women and children drown in a desperate bid to reach European Union (EU) countries.

The Italian island of Lampedusa is just 290 kilometres off the coast of Libya. In 2006, some 18,000 people crossed this perilous stretch of sea - mostly on inflatable dinghies fitted with an outboard engine. Some were seeking employment, others wanted to reunite with family members and still others were fleeing persecution, conflict or indiscriminate violence and had no choice but to leave through irregular routes in their search for safety.

Of those who made it to Lampedusa, some 6,000 claimed asylum. And nearly half of these were recognized as refugees or granted some form of protection by the Italian authorities.

In August 2007, the authorities in Lampedusa opened a new reception centre to ensure that people arriving by boat or rescued at sea are received in a dignified way and are provided with adequate accommodation and medical facilities.

Drifting Towards Italy

Colombia: A struggle for rights

Overlooked by the rest of the world, decades of violent internal conflict have forced more than 3.5 million Colombians from their homes, with more fleeing nearly every day. Some seek shelter overseas, but about 80 percent head for urban centres within the country.

For most, towns and cities represent much-prized safety after seeing loved ones killed, or rescuing their children from threats of forced conscription. But the places where they can afford to live are usually the poorest barrios - located on a landslide-prone cliff or, perhaps, a flood-plagued beachfront.

Rural people and farmers also often find it a challenge to make a living in a town or city. Instead of growing plantains and catching fish, they now have to somehow earn enough money every day to feed their families.

Traumas also follow displaced Colombians. Formerly independent women used to working or staying alone now need to have others around constantly.

UNHCR is working with the Colombian government to make services available to forcibly displaced people. An important first step is a long-standing collaboration under which more than 3 million displaced Colombians have received identity cards.

Colombia: A struggle for rights

New Arrivals in Yemen

During one six-day period at the end of March, more than 1,100 Somalis and Ethiopians arrived on the shores of Yemen after crossing the Gulf of Aden on smuggler's boats from Bosaso, Somalia. At least 28 people died during these recent voyages – from asphyxiation, beating or drowning – and many were badly injured by the smugglers. Others suffered skin problems as a result of prolonged contact with sea water, human waste, diesel oil and other chemicals.

During a recent visit to Yemen, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller pledged to further raise the profile of the situation, to appeal for additional funding and international action to help Yemen, and to develop projects that will improve the living conditions and self sufficiency of the refugees in Yemen.

Since January 2006, Yemen has received nearly 30,000 people from Somalia, Ethiopia and other places, while more than 500 people have died during the sea crossing and at least 300 remain missing. UNHCR provides assistance, care and housing to more than 100,000 refugees already in Yemen.

New Arrivals in Yemen

Syrian Refugees: Desperate in LampedusaPlay video

Syrian Refugees: Desperate in Lampedusa

In the past year, more than 13,000 people have arrived by boat in Italy's Lampedusa Island on irregular migration routes. Many have died attempting the crossing. Young men from sub-Saharan Africa mix with families from Syria. All share the same dream - starting afresh in the security and stability of Europe.
Mexico: Fleeing Central American Gang ViolencePlay video

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.
Dialogue on Asylum & MigrationPlay video

Dialogue on Asylum & Migration

Delegates from about 70 nations recently met in Geneva and grappled with the complex issue of how to identify and better protect refugees who travel alongside irregular migrants on dangerous journeys in search of safety.