News Stories, 20 July 2007
GENEVA, July 20 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency and the government of Morocco signed an agreement on Friday that will strengthen their cooperation as the region deals with a rising level of mixed migration flows.
High Commissioner António Guterres and the Government of Morocco, represented by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Omar Hilale, signed the accord de siège at UNHCR's headquarters in Geneva.
"We are strengthening a significant and long-running partnership. Today especially, given the number of people moving in mixed migration flows along the continent's Atlantic and Mediterranean shores, this agreement is important to ensure we are able to help people in need of protection," said Guterres.
The agreement raises the status of the UNHCR office in Rabat to a full-fledged representation. UNHCR staff working in Morocco will benefit from enhanced channels of communication with all relevant government departments, central and local authorities, and partner organizations.
"With the signing of this cooperation agreement between the Kingdom of Morocco and UNHCR, we will be able to strengthen and take advantage of our cooperation under the best possible conditions," said Hilale.
Morocco announced its intention to sign a cooperation agreement with UNHCR on World Refugee Day (June 20).
The signing of the accord de siège is a clear expression of the expanding and deepening cooperation between the Moroccan authorities and the UNHCR operation in the country. The focus of this cooperation is protection of refugees within broader mixed migratory movements affecting Morocco and the North African region.
The joint work of UNHCR and Moroccan authorities will also concentrate on finding durable solutions for refugees, particularly through voluntary return, as well as self-reliance and targeted use of resettlement.
Morocco was the first country on the African continent to receive UNHCR staff in 1959 and to allow UNHCR to open an honorary delegation in 1965. Currently, the UNHCR office in Rabat has registered some 650 refugees recognized under its mandate. Some 800 asylum applications are pending, mainly from nationals from sub-Saharan African countries.