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Refugees in danger will find temporary sanctuary in the Philippines

News Stories, 31 August 2009

© UNHCR/I.Earp-Jones
Refugees at Risk: young resettled refugees at play. The Philippines has agreed to provide emergency transit to refugees en route to resettlement in a third country.

MANILA, Philippines, August 31 (UNHCR) Under a breakthrough agreement, the Philippines has become a transit country for at risk refugees on their way to resettlement, only the second country in the world to formally play this vital role.

The new transit arrangement the second in the world after one concluded with Romania in March this year was put in place under an agreement signed last week in Manila by the Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto Romulo, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration. Slovakia last week accepted a group of 98 Palestinian refugees from Iraq under a special resettlement transit deal.

"The Philippines is again setting the protection benchmark in Asia after signing the 1951 Refugee Convention and implementing a national asylum law and procedure," Raymond Hall, UNHCR's regional coordinator for Southeast Asia, said at the signing ceremony last Thursday. "Having fulfilled its international protection responsibilities, with this agreement it is making a significant gesture to broaden the system."

The idea is to provide a temporary haven for individual refugees in urgent need of evacuation from their first asylum countries. They may stay in the Philippines for up to six months before being resettled in third countries.

"By signing this agreement, the Philippines is providing an important protection tool, and widening protection space," Hall added. "It is providing significant space for individual refugees who otherwise would be in danger of refoulement [forced return] or of other serious threats to their well-being. This will allow the onward resettlement process to be completed without such pressures and in a way that assures adequate protection."

UNHCR foresees evacuating primarily refugees from Asia to the Philippines, but vulnerable civilians from all parts of the world could be processed here while waiting to be resettled in third countries.

The Philippines is one of the few countries in Asia to have signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, having done so in 1980.

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The 1951 Refugee Convention

The Geneva Refugee Convention has been instrumental in helping an estimated 50 million people restart their lives.

1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol

The key document on refugee protection in full, plus the text of the Protocol

Resettlement

An alternative for those who cannot go home, made possible by UNHCR and governments.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Between February and October 2011, more than 1 million people crossed into Tunisia to escape conflict in Libya. Most were migrant workers who made their way home or were repatriated, but the arrivals included refugees and asylum-seekers who could not return home or live freely in Tunisia.

UNHCR has been trying to find solutions for these people, most of whom ended up in the Choucha Transit Camp near Tunisia's border with Libya. Resettlement remains the most viable solution for those registered as refugees at Choucha before a cut-off date of December 1, 2011.

As of late April, 14 countries had accepted 2,349 refugees for resettlement, 1,331 of whom have since left Tunisia. The rest are expected to leave Choucha later this year. Most have gone to Australia, Norway and the United States. But there are a more than 2,600 refugees and almost 140 asylum-seekers still in the camp. UNHCR continues to advocate with resettlement countries to find solutions for them.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

An estimated 13 million people were affected when Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines on November 8. Thousands were killed and about 3 million are believed to be displaced - some of them living in evacuation sites, others on the ruins of their former homes. Tacloban City in Leyte province was one of the hardest-hit areas. A week after the typhoon made landfall, large parts of its coast remain flattened and piles of debris still line the streets. Working with the Philippines government and UN and NGO partners, UNHCR is airlifting emergency supplies for thousands of survivors. The agency is delivering tents, plastic sheets, mosquito nets and other critical aid. It is also co-leading the protection cluster with the government, working to identify vulnerable people and ensuring that they have access to basic assistance and services. UNHCR has appealed for US$15 million to meet these critical needs. UNHCR is now present in Tacloban and Ormoc in Leyte province, as well as Guiuan in Eastern Samar province.

Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan: On the Road to Recovery Six Months After the Storm

Six months after Typhoon Haiyan carved its deadly and destructive path through the central Philippines and forcibly displaced 4 million Filipinos, the area is like a big construction site as people get on with rebuilding their flattened homes as well as their lives. Many have moved into renovated homes while thousands of those who fled to cities like Cebu and Manila have returned home. But large numbers still live in tents or former evacuation centres; full recovery is still some way off and many people need help. UNHCR is working with the government and other partners to address the challenges and find solutions for the displaced. The refugee agency has provided assistance to more than 600,000 people, distributing shelter materials and household items, including solar-powered lanterns in areas where there is still no electricity. UNHCR is also supporting a government-led mobile civil registration project to give 100,000 people continued access to social welfare, education and employment. Photographer Jeoffrey Maitem marked the six-month milestone by visiting communities recovering from Typhoon Haiyan.

Typhoon Haiyan: On the Road to Recovery Six Months After the Storm

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Philippines: One Year After Typhoon Haiyan

On November 8 last year, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the central Philippines, causing widespread devastation and killing thousands of people. A year on, and the recovery work still goes on. Bartolome on Leyte Island looks back at his family's experience, including living on a dredger for several weeks after their home was destroyed.
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Philippines : Rebuilding a Year After Typhoon Haiyan

One year ago, the central Philippines was hit by Typhoon Haiyan, a massive storm that wiped out entire communities and killed more than 6,000 people. Today, the residents of hard-hit areas such as Leyte Island are well on their way to rebuilding their lives.
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