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Reminder: High Commissioner's Dialogue on protracted refugee situations

Briefing notes

Reminder: High Commissioner's Dialogue on protracted refugee situations

9 December 2008 Also available in:

A reminder that some 300 representatives of more than 50 governments and governmental and non-governmental organizations are expected to begin meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) in Geneva's Palais des Nations for a two-day dialogue aimed at seeking solutions for millions of people caught up in the limbo of so-called "protracted refugee situations."

Worldwide, UNHCR counts nearly 6 million people in at least 30 such long-term refugee situations that have lasted five years or more, excluding Palestinians.

The two-day meeting of "The High Commissioner's Dialogue on Protection Issues" opens Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Room XVII with remarks by High Commissioner António Guterres and a keynote speech by Tanzanian Prime Minister Mizengo Kayanza Peter Pinda. Both opening statements will be open to media, but the rest of the session will be closed. We will issue press releases on the opening day as well as at the conclusion of the meeting.

Much of the burden of hosting these long-term refugees falls almost exclusively to developing states and the High Commissioner will make the point that the international community needs to do more to share that burden.

Many refugees have been in limbo for a decade or more, with growing numbers of refugee children who have been born and raised in exile and who have never set foot in their "homeland." All too many refugees are effectively trapped for years in the camps and communities where they are accommodated, with no solutions in sight. In some cases, they have no freedom of movement, no access to land and are forbidden from working. In desperation, many refugees eventually take the risk of moving elsewhere, often falling prey to human smugglers and traffickers.

As the High Commissioner states in an op-ed pegged to the conference, it is intolerable that the human potential of so many people is being wasted during their time in exile, and imperative that steps are taken to provide them with a solution to their plight.

The meeting will examine five situations in different parts of the world where refugees have been living in exile for extended periods: Afghan refugees in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan; refugees from Myanmar in Bangladesh; Bosnian and Croatian refugees in Serbia; Burundian refugees in Tanzania; and Eritrean refugees in eastern Sudan. Various strategies and solutions for approaching protracted situations will also be discussed by participants, who will also include academics and experts.