Governments urged not to return Haitians

Briefing Notes, 21 June 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 21 June 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) are renewing their appeal to governments to suspend, on humanitarian grounds, all involuntary returns to Haiti, as precarious conditions continue to persist in the country.

Eighteen months after the massive earthquake of January 2010, an estimated 680,000 people are still displaced within Haiti, living in over 1,000 tented camps in Port-au-Prince and other earthquake-affected areas. An unknown number remains outside the country.

Despite the recent elections and ongoing reconstruction efforts, Haiti, weakened by the earthquake, cannot yet ensure adequate protection or care especially for some vulnerable groups in case of return, such as unaccompanied minors, disabled persons, people with health problems, victims of trafficking or of sexual abuse.

Given the current situation in Haiti, UNHCR and OHCHR are urging governments to renew, on humanitarian grounds, residence permits and other mechanisms that have allowed Haitians to remain outside their country.

The appeal calls on governments to assess Haitian cases on an individual basis and to pay special consideration and refrain from returning to Haiti persons with special protection needs, and to prevent situations where returns can lead to family separation.

Joint UNHCR-OHCHR Return Advisory Update on Haiti

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Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

UNHCR's annual Nansen Refugee Award was posthumously awarded to Senator Edward Kennedy at a ceremony in Washington DC on October 29 for his life-long commitment to refugee rights. Kennedy's wife, Victoria, accepted the award on behalf of her late husband. In presenting the award, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, praised the "vision and commitment" of Senator Kennedy in his support for the displaced.

The prize money of US$100,000 will be donated to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, where it will be used to train the next generation of leaders dedicated to the cause of refugee advocacy. The Nansen Award is given to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. It was created in 1954 in honour of Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian polar explorer, scientist and the first global High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

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