Guterres ends mission to Georgia, Russian Federation with visit to South Ossetia

Press Releases, 22 August 2008

Friday 22 August 2008

TSKHINVALI, SOUTH OSSETIA Concluding a four-day mission to Georgia and the Russian Federation in the aftermath of the South Ossetia conflict, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres met Friday with several affected families in the South Ossetia city of Tskhinvali and witnessed the massive relief operation being carried out by Russia's emergency relief organization EMERCOM.

Upon arrival in Tskhinvali on Friday morning, the High Commissioner visited a local hospital which continued to function throughout the conflict, in part by moving patients and the operating theatre to the basement. He also met several affected families in various parts of the battle-scarred city, which has already begun plans for reconstruction.

Guterres met for two hours with the de facto president of South Ossetia, Mr. Eduard Kokoity, and other local officials. As he did earlier in the week with Georgian officials, he stressed the non-political, humanitarian nature of UNHCR's work on behalf of all civilians uprooted by conflict and persecution. Friday's talks focused on aspects that "relate directly to my mandate as UN High Commissioner for Refugees", he said.

"I was reassured by Mr. Kokoity that there will be no discrimination based on ethnicity in the policy of voluntary return of refugees and other displaced persons," the High Commissioner said. "I was also reassured by his commitment to prevent further displacement through the guarantee of safety for all members of the population, independently of their ethnic background.

"We also discussed a whole range of complex humanitarian issues which go far beyond my mandate and in relation to which I will report to the Secretary General of the United Nations," Guterres said before his departure from Beslan airport in North Ossetia.

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The High Commissioner

António Guterres, who joined UNHCR on June 15, 2005, is the UN refugee agency's 10th High Commissioner.

Ingushetia: Internally Displaced Chechens

When fighting broke out between government troops and rebel forces in Chechnya in 1999, over 200,000 people fled the republic, most of them to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia. Today, tens of thousands of Chechens remain displaced in Ingushetia, unwilling to go home because of continuing security concerns.

As of early December 2003, some 62,000 displaced Chechens were living in temporary settlements or in private accommodation. Those living in settlements face constant threats of eviction, often by owners who wish to use their buildings again.

Another 7,900 displaced Chechens live in tents in three remaining camps – Satsita, Sputnik, and Bart.

The authorities have repeatedly called for the closure of tent camps and the return of the displaced people to Chechnya. Three camps have been closed in the past year – Iman camp at Aki Yurt, "Bella" or B camp, and "Alina" or A camp. Chechens from the latter two camps who did not wish to go home were allowed to move to Satsita camp or other existing temporary settlements in Ingushetia.

Ingushetia: Internally Displaced Chechens

Displacement in Georgia

Tens of thousands of civilians are living in precarious conditions, having been driven from their homes by the crisis in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

On the morning of August 12, the first UNHCR-chartered plane carrying emergency aid arrived in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the first UN assistance to arrive in the country since fighting broke out the previous week. The airlift brought in 34 tonnes of tents, jerry cans, blankets and kitchen sets from UNHCR's central emergency stockpile in Dubai. Items were then loaded onto trucks at the Tbilisi airport for transport and distribution.

A second UNHCR flight landed in Tbilisi on August 14, with a third one expected to arrive the following day. In addition, two UNHCR aid flights are scheduled to leave for Vladikavkaz in the Russian Federation the following week with mattresses, water tanks and other supplies for displaced South Ossetians.

Working with local partners, UNHCR is now providing assistance to the most vulnerable and needy. These include many young children and family members separated from one another. The situation is evolving rapidly and the refugee agency is monitoring the needs of the newly displaced population, which numbered some 115,000 on August 14.

Posted on 15 August 2008

Displacement in Georgia

2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented Sister Angélique Namaika of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award at a gala ceremony in Geneva on Monday night.

Sister Angélique, through her Centre for Reintegration and Development, has helped transform the lives of more than 2,000 women and girls who had been forced from their homes and abused by fighters of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) or other armed groups. Many of those she helps suffered abduction, forced labour, beatings, murder, rape or other human rights abuses.

The Roman Catholic nun helps survivors to heal by offering them the chance to learn a trade, start a small business or go to school. Testimonies from these women show the remarkable effect she has had on helping turn around their lives, with many affectionately calling her "mother."

The Award ceremony featured a keynote speech from best-selling author Paulo Coelho and musical performances by singer-songwriter Dido, Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna and Grammy-nominated Malian musicians, Amadou and Mariam.

2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UNHCR: An Appeal for AfricaPlay video

UNHCR: An Appeal for Africa

The High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, called for more attention and help for African nations dealing with new and old displacements.
Lebanon: UN Agency Chiefs Visit Bekaa RefugeesPlay video

Lebanon: UN Agency Chiefs Visit Bekaa Refugees

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Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat campPlay video

Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat camp

Concluding a visit to Iraq, UNHCR chief António Guterres met with Syrian refugees in Arbat camp in the Kurdistan region. Guterres noted the recent proliferation of humanitarian crises, but urged the international community not to forget about Syria, "the mega protracted crisis of our times."