Briefing Notes, 9 May 2008
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 9 May 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Belarus, UNHCR and other organizations, have signed an agreement on border monitoring and access to asylum. Under the memorandum of understanding, signed in Minsk on Wednesday, joint border monitoring missions will be carried out regularly in border areas in order to ensure asylum seekers have access to the country and to asylum procedures.
In addition to border monitoring, counselling, medical and emergency aid are included in the agreement, as well as assistance for those who are not eligible for international protection and want to return back to their home country. UNHCR will provide training on asylum issues to relevant government officials.
The agreement is part of a project funded by the European Union (EU) UNHCR signed similar agreements with Hungary in 2006 and with Slovakia in 2007. These arrangements represent an important element of UNHCR's activities under the 10 Point Plan of Action for Eastern and South Eastern borders of the EU on managing mixed flows of migrants and asylum seekers.
Belarus shares borders with three EU member states – Lithuania, Poland and Latvia – with which it maintains tight border controls – and an essentially open border with Russia. It is a country of transit and of destination for migrants and asylum seekers.