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High Commissioner mission to Yemen

Briefing notes

High Commissioner mission to Yemen

13 May 2008 Also available in:

High Commissioner António Guterres leaves for Yemen tomorrow (Wednesday) for a five-day visit that will include a first-hand look at UNHCR's efforts there on behalf of refugees and internally displaced people and the opening of a regional conference on refugee protection and migration in the Gulf of Aden. The two-day Regional Conference on Refugee Protection and International Migration will be held in Sana'a on 19-20 May.

Prior to the conference, Mr. Guterres is scheduled to visit UNHCR's offices in Sana'a and Aden, as well the Kharaz refugee camp. He will also meet with urban refugees in Basateen in Aden, and visit UNHCR's reception centres along the southern coastline of Yemen.

At each stop, the High Commissioner will meet with Yemeni officials as well as with some of the Somalis and Ethiopians who have recently made the perilous voyage across the Gulf of Aden in search of protection or a better life. So far this year, more than 15,300 people have made the dangerous crossing aboard smugglers' boats, double the number for the same period a year ago. More than 360 people died making the voyage during the first four months of 2008.

The regional conference is being convened by UNHCR in cooperation with the Mixed Migration Task Force for Somalia, composed of international agencies working in Somalia and funded by the European Commission. The objectives of the conference include establishing a regional mechanism and longer-term plan of action on refugee protection and mixed migration in the Gulf of Aden region. The mixed flow of people across the Gulf of Yemen includes a significant number of refugees. Yemen has carried a major burden in dealing with irregular migratory movements in the region, yet has maintained an open-door policy to refugees. But it has been calling for more support from the international community. UNHCR and other international agencies have stepped up their efforts to assist Yemen and other countries in the region, and are jointly calling for global action to better address the challenges.

At the regional conference, participants will review the challenges in the main countries of departure, transit and arrival in the region and develop appropriate responses. The resulting action plan will in part be based on a Ten-Point Plan developed by UNHCR in 2006 to assist governments in developing protection-sensitive migration strategies. The conference will bring together senior level government authorities from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia (including Somaliland and Puntland), Yemen and the Gulf Cooperation countries, as well as representatives from the African Union, the European Commission, various UN agencies, NGOs and members of the civil society.