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Venezuela: UNHCR San Cristobal office opens

Briefing notes

Venezuela: UNHCR San Cristobal office opens

31 August 2001

UNHCR today officially opens its field office in San Cristobal, Venezuela, near the border with Colombia. The field office will work in coordination with governmental and non-governmental institutions to promote international protection for people fleeing the armed conflict in Colombia. The opening of the office will improve UNHCR's ability together with its partners to monitor border crossings, and ensure that people seeking safety in Venezuela have access to asylum procedures and emergency assistance if needed.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias will preside over the inauguration ceremony, accompanied by UNHCR Regional Representative Maria Virginia Trimarco.

Earlier this week, Venezuela's National Assembly passed new refugee and asylum legislation (la Ley Orgánico para Refugiados o Refugiadas y Asilados o Asiladas). The law establishes the right to seek asylum in Venezuela, and outlines asylum procedures and the rights and responsibilities of the state and of refugees in Venezuela. Venezuela is a signatory to the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

UNHCR's regional office for northern South America and Panama is located in Caracas. In Ecuador, UNHCR has an office in Quito, as well as a field office in Lago Agrio near Ecuador's border with Colombia. In Colombia itself, UNHCR has an office in Bogota and three field offices in Apartadó, Barrancabermeja and Puerto Asís.

UNHCR has recently expressed concern over the growing numbers of Colombians seeking asylum in the region and further afield in light of the deterioration of the situation in Colombia.