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Americas: UNHCR welcomes OAS resolution

Briefing notes

Americas: UNHCR welcomes OAS resolution

13 June 2003

Thirty-four states from throughout the Americas have adopted by general consensus a resolution on the protection of asylum seekers, refugees, returnees, stateless and internally displaced persons during the 33rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) held in Santiago de Chile from June 8 to 10.

The resolution encourages the few American states which have not yet ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol to do so, and calls on countries to adopt national mechanisms for the protection of asylum seekers and refugees in accordance with international standards. It also introduces two important innovations: it urges states to establish specific standards for the reception of asylum seekers and refugees, and emphasizes the importance of combating xenophobia and racial discrimination against these vulnerable groups. The latter was proposed by the Mexican delegation, in line with the recommendations made at the International Conference on Racial Discrimination held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.

UNHCR's Director for the Americas, Hope Hanlan, said the resolution was good news for refugees and internally displaced people in the region, taking us closer to a more comprehensive response to the needs of the victims of persecution and armed conflict.

Thirty American states have ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol. Approximately 1 million asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons are of interest to UNHCR in North America. In South America over 2 million displaced Colombians continue to pose the most significant humanitarian challenges in the hemisphere.