UNHCR supports participation of refugees in upcoming Mali elections

Briefing Notes, 28 May 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 28 May 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

With the first round of presidential elections in Mali due on July 28, consultations are under way between the interim Malian government and refugee hosting countries on including refugee populations in the voting. These consultations are expected to be followed by bilateral agreements that will form the basis of the electoral process in each of the main refugee-hosting countries.

While details of the out-of-country electoral process are still being worked out, UNHCR is ready to facilitate the exercise by refugees of their right to vote.

Some 174,000 Malians have found refuge in neighbouring countries since current conflict erupted in the northern part of their country in January 2012. Burkina Faso hosts 50,000 refugees, Mauritania 74,000 and Niger 50,000. Smaller groups of Malian refugees are also in Algeria.

UNHCR supports the voluntary participation of refugees in these elections, although our role will be limited to a strictly humanitarian and non-political one. In conjunction with refugee-hosting countries and refugees, we will facilitate space for dialogue on the electoral process, and for registration of voters. It is expected that registration of voters in camps and outside camps will be the responsibility of the Malian electoral commission, who will work with host governments to establish voting lists.

On UNHCR's part, we will make sure that refugees understand that their participation in the electoral process is voluntary and we shall warn against any pressure or intimidation. We shall also provide practical information on the electoral process to refugees as well as facilitate meetings between refugees in the context of the upcoming elections. UNHCR will work with the asylum countries to ensure a free, fair and secure process.

Discussion of voting locations is on-going, but voter registration and voting itself should in principle take place outside of camp settings. Special arrangements will be made for modalities such as transportation by country authorities to voting stations. Host governments will be responsible for security.

UNHCR has previously facilitated out-of-country voting by refugees in South Sudan in 2011, in Iraq in 2010 and in Afghanistan in 2004.

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