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Adel Imam's Mission to Yemen

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Adel Imam undertook a four-day mission to Yemen from April 13-17, 2000. For his first official mission as Goodwill Ambassador, he had three objectives: To become familiar with the refugee situation both in a camp and in an urban setting, to discuss refugee issues with Yemeni authorities, and to promote public awareness.

Upon his arrival at Aden Airport on April 15, Imam witnessed the preparation of a special flight for the voluntary repatriation of refugees to Somalia. He spoke with some refugees as they received their repatriation grants from UNHCR.

On the same day, he visited Al Gahin refugee camp in the west of Aden to familiarise himself with the reality of refugee life. His programme included meetings with the refugee representatives and the camp manager, a visit to the camp school and to three workshops for income generation projects. He was accompanied by the Governor of Abyan, where the camp is located.

The next morning, Imam, joined by the Deputy Governor of Aden, visited a school for urban refugee children in Al Basatin area. Before leaving Aden, the Goodwill Ambassador met with the Governor of Lahej to be briefed on the transfer of the refugees from Al Gahin camp to a new location, Al Kharaz in the district of Lahej.

During his visit to Yemen, Imam met with the highest authorities, namely with His Excellency President Ali Abdallah Saleh, Prime Minister Al Ariani, Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdul Kader Bajmal and Minister of Culture Abdul Malek Mansour. He also met with other members of the Cabinet and high-ranking government officials.

During his meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Yemeni government and UNHCR reviewed the refugee situation in the country. Topics included the admission of Somalis on a Prima Facie basis, their registration, the new camp and the establishment of a national committee on refugees. Both parties agreed to develop together specific projects for the new refugee camp (road construction, shelter, health, education, income-generating activities), which the Goodwill Ambassador promotes for funding with potential private donors, especially in the Gulf countries.

Imam's every move in Sana'a and Aden drew crowds. In addition to refugees and the general public, he also talked with people from various professional fields. On April 17, he met with artists at the Ministry of Culture. He gave several media interviews in Yemen, and briefed journalists on his mission at a press conference before leaving the country.

He was also the guest on a two-hour special programme broadcast by the Yemeni satellite television. On all occasions, the Goodwill Ambassador emphasised the humanitarian nature of his mission and highlighted UNHCR's unique role of ensuring refugee protection.

Thus, Imam successfully met all the objectives UNHCR had set for his first field mission as a Goodwill Ambassador. The mission confirmed his tremendous popularity in the Arab region and the respect he receives from the highest authorities as well as the general public. Throughout the mission, he proved his commitment to the refugee cause and lent his voice to draw public attention to their needs