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High Commissioner in Washington, D.C.

Briefing notes

High Commissioner in Washington, D.C.

5 May 2006

High Commissioner António Guterres completes a four-day mission to Washington, D.C., later today. He has been meeting State Department officials, the National Security Advisor, members of Congress as well as representatives of the NGO community to discuss UNHCR's global operations and funding requirements. He is due to hold a press conference in a few hours' time (1000 EST) at Washington's National Press Club where he will be joined by Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey.

During his meetings, the High Commissioner also raised concerns surrounding the so-called 'material support' bar and its potentially negative impact on refugees and asylum seekers. Under current US anti-terrorism provisions, anyone who provides material support to, or is a member of, a proscribed organization is barred from asylum or resettlement in the US. The High Commissioner expressed his hope that the bar would not be used to reject asylum seekers and refugees who were themselves victims of terrorism often as a result of blackmail, threats or coercion. On Thursday, the US Secretary of State authorized a waiver for refugees in the Tham Hin Camp in Thailand, who had provided material support to the Karen National Union (KNU). UNHCR welcomes this step forward.

The ongoing crisis in Darfur was also discussed, with the High Commissioner describing the situation there as "appalling" while at the same time expressing hope for a successful outcome at the Darfur peace talks in Abuja.

The High Commissioner once again expressed his gratitude to the American people for their continued support of UNHCR and their acceptance of some 50,000 refugees last year. The United States is UNHCR's largest single donor, with contributions last year totalling $322.7 million.