Briefing Notes, 26 July 2002
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Peter Kessler – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 26 July 2002, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
We are very pleased with the approval a week ago by El Salvador's National Assembly of the Law on Refugee Status Determination. The legislation, which is now pending signature by the President, was approved by a majority of 65 votes out of a total of 89 deputies. The passage of this legislation by the National Assembly is a very important step towards the institutionalisation of refugee status determination in the region. It is a clear sign of the will of El Salvador to fully comply with its commitment to refugee law and the human rights of asylum seekers.
The law, which was submitted to the legislature in late 2001, has been the subject of years of work by UNHCR and its partners in the government. The new statutes establish clear procedures under which refugees can request asylum and have their case reviewed by national institutions according to the standards established in the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol. The new law also creates the Commission for the Determination of Refugee Status that will be overseen by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and by the Ministry of Interior. In previous years, refugee status determination was carried out by UNHCR and recognised by the government. El Salvador acceded to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol in 1983. Over the years, UNHCR has worked with the government to repatriate more than 32,000 Salvadoran refugees since 1987 and to protect asylum-seekers arriving to the country. We closed our office in El Salvador in 1998 as our activities assistance programmes, mainly for repatriation, wound down. In recent years, UNHCR's work has been focused in the establishment of local structures to deal with asylum-seekers and refugees arriving in the country from other parts of the world. Recent arrivals include Colombians fleeing persecution.