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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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UNHCR country pages

The 1951 Refugee Convention

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

Resettlement

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

UNHCR Resettlement Handbook and Country Chapters

July 2011 edition of the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook.

1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol

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

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

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003

This gallery highlights the history of UNHCR's efforts to help some of the world's most disenfranchised people to find a place called home, whether through repatriation, resettlement or local integration.

After decades of hospitality after World War II, as the global political climate changed and the number of people cared for by UNHCR swelled from around one million in 1951, to more than 27 million people in the mid-1990s, the welcome mat for refugees was largely withdrawn.

Voluntary repatriation has become both the preferred and only practical solution for today's refugees. In fact, the great majority of them choose to return to their former homes, though for those who cannot do so for various reasons, resettlement in countries like the United States and Australia, and local integration within regions where they first sought asylum, remain important options.

This gallery sees Rwandans returning home after the 1994 genocide; returnees to Kosovo receiving reintegration assistance; Guatemalans obtaining land titles in Mexico; and Afghans flocking home in 2003 after decades in exile.

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003

Philippines: A home for NowPlay video

Philippines: A home for Now

Losing your family and home is losing everything you are and have. Tyhone Haiyan tore many families apart and took almost every persons home in Tacloban City ... in one day. UNHCR has provided more than 1,500 family tents to families in this area in addition to solar lanterns, plastic sheets, blankets and other relief items to help the people of Tacloban City regain a sense of life.
Philippines: Leaving the Darkness Play video

Philippines: Leaving the Darkness

When typhoon Haiyan swept Tacloban City, it took with it what people need the most to see their way through any hard time: light. UNHCR has provided people of the Philippines with relief items that are helping make a difference. Relief items such as solar lanterns, plastic sheets, blankets and more than 1,500 family tents to families in this area.
Philippines: Picking up the Pieces.Play video

Philippines: Picking up the Pieces.

In Tanauan, one of the coastal areas worst hit by Typhoon Haiyun, people are being given tents and assistance while they start rebuilding their homes and lives.