Mother calls for release of abducted UNHCR staff member

News Stories, 23 February 2009

© UNHCR/M.Farman-Farmaian
John Solecki with an Afghan refugee child in the Quetta sub-office.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, February 23 (UNHCR) The mother of abducted UNHCR staff member John Solecki has appealed to the people of southern Pakistan's Balochistan province to help secure his freedom.

"To our friends in Balochistan, please help us find John and have him returned safely to his family, friends and colleagues," Rose Solecki, 83, said in an audio recording released in Pakistan over the weekend. "John has helped many people in Balochistan and now my son needs your help."

Solecki was abducted and Syed Hashim, a driver with UNHCR for 18 years, was killed as they drove on February 2 to the refugee agency's office in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan. Solecki was head of the office.

Since then, UN teams assembled in Pakistan, New York and Geneva have worked around-the-clock to try and secure the release of Solecki.

"The United Nations has been meeting with various people," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva on Friday. "We are hopeful these various initiatives will create the conditions for John Solecki's immediate and safe release," he added.

The previously unknown Balochistan Liberation United Front, which says it is holding Solecki, has demanded the release of missing people it says are in Pakistani custody. Since 2004, Baloch rebels have demanded political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the province's natural resources.

Rose Solecki, meanwhile, said she did not understand why this was happening to her son. "He loves his job, helping refugees and others in need in many difficult places in the world," she said. "I cannot begin to explain the sorrows and pain that I am going through right now.

"My husband and I are old. We want to be with John again. We cannot bear the thought of losing John," she said. The senior Solecki is 91 years old.

Despite their age, she described how they had visited their son in Quetta last year, a year after he took up the post, and were so proud of the work he was doing with both Afghan refugees and the Baloch population hosting them.

Solecki's parents are both archaeologists and Rose Solecki said bringing John and his brother Bill along while they did research in the Middle East and Asia she had worked in Quetta 50 years ago may be the root of his interest and respect for the different cultures and peoples in the region

"I cannot express how happy we were to have the opportunity to get to know again the people of Balochistan, this time through John," she said in the recording which was broadcast in Pakistan and reported by international media. But, John's mother said the happy memories of a year ago have now become a nightmare.

"I am appealing to the people of Balochistan for whatever support they can provide to secure my son's safety and freedom," she said. "John is a very gentle person. He loves his humanitarian work, helping the people in need together with the people of Balochistan."

The UN has been concerned about Solecki's health. "The UN is working on appropriate ways to address the concerns, including sharing information with the relevant authorities such as the newly established Federal Ministry of Human Rights," a UN statement said on Friday.




UNHCR country pages

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

Pakistan Earthquake: A Race Against the Weather

With winter fast approaching and well over a million people reported homeless in quake-stricken Pakistan, UNHCR and its partners are speeding up the delivery and distribution of hundreds of tonnes of tents, blankets and other relief supplies from around the world.

In all, the NATO-UNHCR airlift, which began on 19 October, will deliver a total of 860 tonnes of supplies from our stockpiles in Iskenderun, Turkey. Separately, by 25 October, UNHCR-chartered aircraft had so far delivered 14 planeloads of supplies to Pakistan from the agency's stocks in Copenhagen, Dubai and Jordan.

On the ground, UNHCR is continuing to distribute aid supplies in the affected areas to help meet some of the massive needs of an estimated 3 million people.

Pakistan Earthquake: A Race Against the Weather

Pakistan: Fleeing to Safety

More than 1.5 million people flee their homes in North-West Pakistan.

Fighting between the army and Taliban militants in and around the Swat Valley in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province has displaced more than 1.5 million people since the beginning of May. Some of the displaced are being sheltered in camps set up by the government and supplied by UNHCR. Others - the majority, in fact - are staying in public buildings, such as schools, or with friends and extended family members. Living conditions are harsh. With the onset of summer, rising temperatures are contributing to a range of ailments, especially for villagers from Swat accustomed to a cooler climate. Pakistan's displacement crisis has triggered an outpouring of generosity at home. UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is urging a "massive" assistance effort from abroad as well.

Pakistan: Fleeing to Safety

Pakistan: Finding Refuge

Pakistani civilians continue to stream out of the region around the Swat Valley to find shelter in Mardana

More than 2 million people, according to local authorities, have been forced from their homes following Pakistani efforts to drive militants out of the region around north-west Pakistan's Swat Valley. Some 200,000 are living in camps set up by the Pakistani government and supplied by UNHCR and other agencies. The remainder are staying in schools or other communal buildings or being hosted by families. The heat is intense, reaching 45 degrees Celsius, and many of the displaced are suffering from heat-related infections and water-borne illnesses, although conditions are improving. UNHCR is providing tents, cooking sets, plastic sheeting and jerry cans, among other aid items. Award-winning photographer Alixandra Fazzina has spent the last two weeks documenting the plight of the internally displaced, from their arrival in safe areas, to the camps, schools and homes in which they now find themselves.

Pakistan: Finding Refuge

Iraq: Heartbreak at the BorderPlay video

Iraq: Heartbreak at the Border

As the Syria crisis enters a fifth year, Syrians continue to seek safety abroad. But desperation is driving some to return to their war-torn country.
Chad: A Nigerian Child AlonePlay video

Chad: A Nigerian Child Alone

Thousands of refugees have fled militant attacks in Nigeria and sought safety in Chad. They include at least 100 children who have been provided shelter by other families.
Chad: Refugees from NigeriaPlay video

Chad: Refugees from Nigeria

In recent weeks, thousands have been forced to flee northern Nigeria after militants attacked their villages, crossing Lake Chad in packed boats and seeking safety at the Dar-es-Salam refugee site in Chad.