UNHCR mourns great tenor Luciano Pavarotti

News Stories, 7 September 2007

© D.Venturelli
Maestro Pavarotti (left) performed with rock and pop stars (here on stage with James Brown, Zucchero, Andrea Bocelli, Elisa and Sting). The tenor's annual "Pavarotti and Friends" concerts raised millions for refugee programmes.

ROME, Italy, September 7 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has issued a statement mourning the death of Luciano Pavarotti, a staunch supporter of the refugee cause and of UNHCR's work around the world.

In a statement, UNHCR said it was "deeply saddened" by the death early Thursday of the celebrated Italian tenor, who was 71. Tributes have been pouring in from around the world. "Nature equipped him with one of the most individual, unmistakable and beautiful voices there has been," noted Britain's The Guardian newspaper.

Pavarotti also used his immense talent to help others. "A United Nations Messenger of Peace, Pavarotti was deeply concerned about the plight of the world's uprooted people and generously used his talents to mobilize public opinion and support for UNHCR's global refugee work," the refugee agency's statement noted.

The singer's annual "Pavarotti and Friends" concerts, bringing together some of the world's greatest rock and pop stars, provided invaluable support to UNHCR's projects in Kosovo in 1999; for Afghan refugees in Pakistan in 2001; for Angolan refugees in Zambia in 2002; and for the agency's Iraq operation in 2003.

Individual donations during and after the concerts and the proceeds from ticket sales and CDs totalled more than US$7 million for refugee projects over the years.

In 2001, Pavarotti was presented the Nansen Refugee Award, granted annually by UNHCR in recognition of outstanding service to the cause of refugees, for his great generosity. At the time, he had raised more funds for the agency than any other individual.

"UNHCR extends its condolences to Luciano Pavarotti's wife, Nicoletta Mantovani, and to his family," Walter Irvine, UNHCR regional representative for Italy, said. "He will be fondly remembered by the many UNHCR staff around the world who had the pleasure of working with him."

Pavarotti is lying in state in the cathedral of his hometown of Modena, where his funeral will take place on Saturday. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2006.

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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.

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The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador flew to Lampedusa from Malta, which has also been a destination for people fleeing North Africa by boat.

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