2007 Nansen Refugee Award goes to advocate for boat people in Malta

Press Releases, 18 September 2007

Tuesday 18 September 2007

GENEVA The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today announced that this year's Nansen Refugee Award will go to Dr. Katrine Camilleri, a 37-year old lawyer with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Malta, who works to defend the rights of refugees and migrants.

"Katrine Camilleri has worked courageously to protect refugees and asylum seekers," said António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. "Dr. Camilleri and JRS are key partners in helping UNHCR to fulfil its goal of assisting governments to identify refugees caught in migratory movements and responding to their needs."

The Nansen Refugee Award is given annually to an individual or organisation for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. The Nansen Committee, which grants the award, said that it had chosen Dr. Camilleri in recognition of her exceptional dedication to the refugee cause.

"The committee notes with appreciation the tireless efforts of Dr. Camilleri to lobby and advocate for refugees. We are impressed by the political courage she has shown in dealing with the refugee situation in Malta. By making the award to Dr. Camilleri for her civic courage and for the inspiring example set by her actions, the Nansen Refugee Award Committee would like to honour all individuals who are working to improve the well-being of refugees," said the official selection decision.

"Katrine Camilleri is not only helping people here in Malta, but entering into a loving, respectful relationship with them," said Monsignor Paul Cremona, Archbishop of Malta.

With the rise in the number of both refugees and migrants reaching Malta by sea a phenomenon common to other countries around the world, irregular migration has become a high-profile political issue.

In response to the sharp escalation of arrivals in Malta, in 2002 JRS began to assist asylum seekers held in detention, establishing volunteer visitor and social work projects and facilitating access to healthcare. Since 1997, Dr. Camilleri has provided legal advice to hundreds of persons kept in administrative detention centres, helping them with their asylum claims and challenging their detention. Her efforts have focused on the most vulnerable, including victims of trauma or torture and survivors of sexual and gender based violence.

Over the last year, JRS and Dr. Camilleri have faced a series of attacks. Nine vehicles belonging to the Jesuits were burned in two separate incidents. This April, arsonists set fire to both Camilleri's car and her front door, terrifying her family trapped inside. The attacks shocked Maltese society and drew wide condemnation, including from the government.

In 2006, UNHCR presented a Ten-Point Plan of Action on Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration that sets out a number of measures to assist states in dealing with the challenges of managing migratory movements while safeguarding the right to claim asylum.

Every year, thousands of people risk their lives trying to reach Europe in overcrowded, often unseaworthy boats. Although a majority of them are economic migrants, some of them are refugees. UNHCR and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have called for more action to prevent further loss of life.

The Nansen Award Ceremony will take place in the headquarters of UNHCR in Geneva on 1 October 2007.

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The Nansen Refugee Award

The Nansen Refugee Award

Given to individuals or organizations for outstanding service in the cause of refugees.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency has named the British coordinator of a UN-run mine clearance programme in southern Lebanon and his civilian staff, including almost 1,000 Lebanese mine clearers, as the winners of the 2008 Nansen Refugee Award.

Christopher Clark, a former officer with the British armed forces, became manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon (UNMACC-SL) n 2003. His teams have detected and destroyed tons of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and tens of thousands of mines. This includes almost 145,000 submunitions (bomblets from cluster-bombs) found in southern Lebanon since the five-week war of mid-2006.

Their work helped enable the return home of almost 1 million Lebanese uprooted by the conflict. But there has been a cost – 13 mine clearers have been killed, while a further 38 have suffered cluster-bomb injuries since 2006. Southern Lebanon is once more thriving with life and industry, while the process of reconstruction continues apace thanks, in large part, to the work of the 2008 Nansen Award winners.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

2007 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency's Nansen Awards Committee has named Dr. Katrine Camilleri, a 37-year-old lawyer with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Malta, as the winner of the 2007 Nansen Refugee Award. The Committee was impressed by the political and civic courage she has shown in dealing with the refugee situation in Malta.

Dr. Camilleri first became aware of the plight of refugees as a 16-year-old girl when a priest visited her school to talk about his work. After graduating from the University of Malta in 1994, she began working in a small law firm where she came into contact with refugees. As Dr. Camilleri's interest grew in this humanitarian field, she started to work with the JRS office in Malta in 1997.

Over the last year, JRS and Dr. Camilleri have faced a series of attacks. Nine vehicles belonging to the Jesuits were burned in two separate attacks. And this April, arsonists set fire to both Dr. Camilleri's car and her front door, terrifying her family. The perpetrators were never caught but the attacks shocked Maltese society and drew condemnation from the Government of Malta. Dr. Camilleri continues to lead the JRS Malta legal team as Assistant Director.

2007 Nansen Refugee Award

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

Burundian humanitarian worker Maggy Barankitse received the 2005 Nansen Refugee Award for her tireless work on behalf of children affected by war, poverty and disease. The Nansen medal was presented at a grand ceremony in Brussels by H.R.H. Princess Mathilde of Belgium and UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Wendy Chamberlin.

Accepting the award, Barankitse said her work was inspired by one single goal: peace. "Accept your fellow man, sit down together, make this world a world of brothers and sisters," she said. "Nothing resists love, that's the message that I want to spread."

Sponsored by UNHCR corporate partner Microsoft, the ceremony and reception at Concert Noble was also attended by Belgium's Minister for Development Co-operation Armand De Decker, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel, renowned Burundian singer Khadja Nin, Congolese refugee and comedian Pie Tshibanda, and French singer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Julien Clerc. Among others.

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

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