Thursday 12, March 2009
Joint press release by UNHCR, IOM and the Government of Romania, 12 March 2009.
Today, in the Northern Romanian city of Timisoara, UNHCR, the Romanian Immigration Office (RIO), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), organized a press conference on the occasion of the official opening of the Emergency Transit Center (ETC). The Center accommodates persons in urgent need of international protection and functions on the basis of the Tri-Partite Agreement signed on 8 May 2008, and ratified by the Romanian Parliament on 24 November 2008.
The ETC, the first of its kind in Europe, hosts refugees in urgent need of evacuation from their first asylum countries due to life threatening conditions, for a maximum period of 6 months, during which they are resettled to third countries.
The event was presided by Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees – Protection, Ms. Erika Feller, Mr. Toma Rus, on behalf of the Romanian Ministry of Administration and Interior, Ms. Cristina Tranca, Chief of Mission with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Mission in Romania.
Ms. Feller is quoted saying that „the importance of this Center far exceeds the numbers of persons who will pass though it, as it is rapidly becoming not only a key protection tool for UNHCR, but also a very good precedent encouraging other countries in other parts of the world to make a similar humanitarian gesture. We extend our sincere appreciation to the Romanian authorities and IOM for the courage and foresight to cooperate with UNHCR on this very important initiative.
In his address, Mr. Toma Rus presented the role UNHCR and IOM played in the founding of the ETC in Timisoara: “The cooperation of the Romanian authorities with the UNCHR and IOM in the field of humanitarian work and international protection has been evolving. The first temporary resettlement operation took place in 1999, when Romania temporarily received on its national territory a group of refugees from Bosnia – Herzegovina and Croatia which were subsequently resettled to the United States of America”, he stated.
Also, Mr. Rus underlined the positive responses received on the creation of the ETC, both at European level as well as at international level, as well as the appreciation coming from EU Member States, but also from the United States and Canada, countries that are involved at an even greater level in humanitarian protection and creating durable solutions for refugees.
“With the increasing number of EU Member States joining the family of resettlement countries and, in as such, responding to the UNHCR call for additional resettlement capacity, the ETC will be an example of the European Union solidarity, as well as a unique template to provide coordinated efforts under emergency circumstances.”, said Mr. Pasquale Lupoli, Director, Operations Support Department, International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The event was attended by members of the diplomatic corps in Romania, local and central Romanian authorities, representatives of the Romanian business community, as well as journalists.
On 8 May 2008, a Tri-partite Agreement was signed in Bucharest by UNHCR, the Romanian Government, and the International Organization for Migration, concerning the temporary evacuation in Romania or persons in urgent need of international protection, and their onward resettlement.
In the above mentioned Agreement, the expression “person in urgent need of international protection” refers to refugees according to the 1951 and its 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees and other persons under UNHCR’s mandate who are in need of emergency evacuation from their country of first asylum and who are temporarily admitted to Romania in view of their onward resettlement to a third country.
Past efforts on Romania’s behalf in this context were the receiving, in March 1999, a group of 4000 Serbian refugees, who were later resettled to the U.S.A., as well as the more recently received group of 439 Uzbek refugees, who, after a temporary stay on the Romanian territory, were resettled to third countries.
Since 29 November 2008 the Center has hosted a group of 38 Eritrean refugees, out of which 19 were already resettled to Sweden, whilst the remaining are bound for Canada in March. Also, on 16 December 2008 a group of 97 Sudanese refugees were evacuated to Timisoara from Iraq, followed on 26 January 2009 by a second group of 42 Sudanese refugees. All 139 refugees are bound for the U.S.A.
Address made by the Assistant High Commissioner (Protection), Ms. Erika Feller on the Official Opening of the Emergency Transit Centre (ETC) in Timisoara, Romania