Argentina: Government urged to move ahead with draft refugee law

Briefing Notes, 22 September 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 22 September 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Refugees in Argentina handed in a petition to Congress on Wednesday to move ahead with a draft refugee law approved last year by the Upper Chamber and currently under study by the Lower Chamber.

The petition, signed by a group of refugees and human rights organizations, emphasized the importance of a refugee law for Argentina, and its particular timeliness this year exactly 45 years after the country's adhesion to the 1951 Refugee Convention. The petition was delivered to the Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies by a group of refugees from Latin America, Africa and Asia, accompanied by UNHCR and human rights organizations.

So far, the draft law has been approved by four commissions of the Lower Chamber, and is now being analyzed by the fifth and last commission before moving onto the plenary. If the law is not passed this year, it would lose parliamentary status in 2007.

Argentina has been making steady progress in its handling of refugee issues over the past few years, including an expanded refugee committee, more efficient procedures and the initiation of a resettlement programme in 2005. The adoption of a refugee law would be a necessary and welcome step along the same direction.

There are over 3,000 refugees of very diverse nationalities in Argentina. Refugees hail from some 60 different countries of origin.