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Information Note on UNHCR's Activities for Promotion and Dissemination of Refugee Law for 1988

Executive Committee Meetings

Information Note on UNHCR's Activities for Promotion and Dissemination of Refugee Law for 1988

18 August 1989


1. As requested by the last session of the Executive Committee in its Conclusion No. 51 (XXXIX) on Promotion and Dissemination of Refugee Law, the following information is provided on specific promotional protection activities undertaken worldwide, including their financial implications, on a regional basis for the period 1 January to 31 July 1989, as well as those planned for the period I August to 31 December 1989.

2. These activities include promotional and related training activities on protection in which UNHCR has been or will be directly involved during this period. The specific cost for each of these activities varies considerably, depending on the contributions or facilities provided by the host government or other organizations, the travel costs for which UNHCR has been responsible and the number and location of the participants. In some instances, no additional costs have been met by UNHCR, apart from those for participation by its staff.

3. The training activities, which form part of the overall promotion of refugee protection, have been designed, and in some cases implemented, in close collaboration with the UNHCR Training Service. Funding for all activities has been provided by the Division of Refugee Law and Doctrine and/or the Training Service from General Programme sources. Efforts are being undertaken to identify additional sources of funding for some of these activities.




4. A refugee law training seminar for government and NGO officials in countries in East and the Horn of Africa was held in Nairobi from 17 to 20 April. Its purpose was to enhance, among officials dealing with refugee matters in the region, practical knowledge and understanding of the principles of refugee law and strengthen their skills in international refugee protection, as well as to promote accession to the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol and the 1969 OAU Convention. It was convened by UNHCR and attended by 26 government and NGO officials from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as by UNHCR staff from Headquarters, Sudan, Djibouti and the Branch Office in Nairobi. The total cost to UNHCR was $ 17,000.

5. UNHCR was invited to attend the 28th session of the annual conference of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee (AALCC) held in Nairobi, Kenya from 13 to 18 February. This meeting was attended by some 40 government representatives from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East and dealt specifically with an agenda item on refugees. UNHCR was able to address the meeting and to take part in very positive subsequent discussions on refugee issues in the regions concerned. As a result of this meeting the AALCC adopted a specific decision relating to refugees, supporting the need for further promotional activities in collaboration with UNHCR. As a follow-up to this proposal, a joint AALCC - UNHCR workshop for a number of countries in South Asia has been scheduled for early 1990.


6. A second Seminar of Arab Experts on Asylum and Refugee Law, jointly organized by the International Institute for Humanitarian Law and UNHCR, in co-operation with the Arab League, the University of Tunis and the Tunisian Red Crescent, was held in Tunis from 15 to 18 May. The objective was to promote the understanding and support of government and NGO officials in the region, of the principles of refugee law and international refugee protection, as well as to promote further accessions to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol. Thirty-three persons from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the Arab League, the Arab Lawyers Union, the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, Palestine and UNHCR headquarters and field staff participated. The total cost of the seminar to UNHCR was $ 44,170.



7. Two refugee law seminars were held in Tokyo:

a) The first, which took place from 14 to 15 February, was convened by UNHCR and the Director-General of the Immigration Bureau of the Ministry of Justice and attended by 20 officials from the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs and staff members from Headquarters and UNHCR's Branch Office in Japan.

b) The second was conducted on 16 February with lawyers from the Japan Legal Aid Association as well as several legal specialists from the academic world.

The purpose of these seminars was to mark the recent publication of the Japanese translation of the collection of international instruments concerning refugees, and to promote greater knowledge of refugee law and understanding towards asylum-seekers and refugees. The total cost of the seminars to UNHCR was $ 2,256.


8. Two refugee law training courses were held in Sydney and Canberra in February at a total cost to UNHCR of $ 15,000:

a) The first, a seminar and training programme in refugee law, took place in Sydney from 22 to 24 February. It was organized by the Human Rights Centre of the University of New South Wales and UNHCR, with the purpose of providing current comparative information on refugee law and practice to policy-makers as well as to those dealing on a day-to-day basis with refugee status determination. The 40 participants included staff from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, the Legal Aid Commission, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, local lawyers, and UNHCR.

b) This was followed by a one-day training course in Canberra on 27 February attended by 20 officials from the Determination of Refugee Status (DORS) Committee, the Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. A representative from the New Zealand High Commission participated as an observer.

South-East Asia

9. As envisaged in paragraph 7 of the Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) adopted by the International Conference on Indo-Chinese Refugees, UNHCR conducted training courses in five South-East Asian countries for government officials, UNHCR staff and local lawyers dealing with the determination of refugee status of Indo-Chinese refugees.

i) Philippines: 2-6 July

This course was attended by 22 government officials from the Commission on Immigration and Deportation, the Refugee Processing Centre and the Department of Foreign Affairs. UNHCR staff and consultants assigned to the Refugee Status Determination Unit in the Philippines also participated. The role of officials in the determination process in the context of the CPA was underlined and the guidelines on refugee criteria and interviewing techniques reviewed. The total cost to UNHCR was $ 3,000.

ii) Indonesia: 11-15 July

This course was organized along similar lines to that held in the Philippines and was attended by 17 officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Government Department handling refugees in Jakarta and Tanjung Pinang, the Ministry of Defence and UNHCR staff. It was preceded by a briefing of senior government officials on the CPA and its implications regarding reception and status determination. The cost to UNHCR was $ 4,676.

iii) Malaysia: 18-21 July

The contents and approach of this course were similar to the previous ones in the Philippines and Indonesia. Forty government officials from the national, regional and state Task Forces, the Immigration Department and the Ministry of Defence participated, as well as 13 UNHCR staff members and consultants. Because of the large number of participants, two parallel sessions were held. A high level of participation and interest was shown by government officials in the discussions and working groups, which concentrated on the humanitarian nature of refugee status determination, criteria and interviewing techniques, and assessment of credibility. The cost of the seminar to UNHCR was $ 8,070.

iv) Thailand: 24-27 July

This course was conducted mainly in the Thai language. It was similar in substance and approach to the previous ones offered in the region, except for the use of locally recruited outside consultants in two of the sections. Some 18 officials from the Operations Centre for Displaced Persons of the Ministry of Interior participated, as well as 12 UNHCR staff members and legal consultants. Substantial documentation was made available to the participants in Thai. Participating officials showed considerable interest in the course and wholeheartedly participated in the working groups. A briefing for senior government officials on the CPA and its implications preceded the course on 21 July. The cost of the training to UNHCR was $ 9,092.

v) Hong Kong: 25 July - 4 August

In line with the content and the approach followed for the courses in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, some 90 immigration officials attended the two four-day training courses in Hong Kong from 25 July to 4 August (because of the large number of participants, two parallel sessions were held in each course). The courses concentrated on the nature of refugee status determination, criteria and interviewing techniques. They were preceded by a briefing on 24 July for senior government officials and members of the Status Review Board, as well as a separate session with the latter, on refugee status determination. The cost to UNHCR was $ 3,990.



10. The first seminar for Italian lawyers on legal protection of refugees was held in Camogli (Genoa) from 2-4 March. Organized by the UNHCR Branch Office in Italy, the seminar was attended by 21 lawyers and was conducted by UNHCR staff and legal academics. The topics discussed included problems relating to asylum and human rights, the refugee concept in international law, UNHCR's protection mandate, the present world refugee population and other relevant issues. The cost of the seminar to UNHCR was $ 3,540.


11. A refugee law and protection training workshop for UNHCR protection staff in South Eastern Europe was organized in Athens from 31 May to 2 June 1989. The primary objectives were to upgrade the participants skill in refugee status determination and other protection tasks, with particular reference to the Middle East caseload. Twelve UNHCR staff members from Headquarters, Branch Offices in Italy, Turkey and Yugoslavia as well as two local lawyers also attended the workshop, The cost to UNHCR was $ 1,350.


12. A refugee law seminar for government and other officials in Cyprus was held in Nicosia from 5 to 6 June. It was designed to promote the spirit and provisions of the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol among middle-level officers in the Ministries dealing with refugees falling within UNHCR's mandate, and to develop closer co-operation between these Ministries and UNHCR in the interest of asylum-seekers and refugees. Some 50 officials from the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Education, Health, Labour and Social Planning, Agriculture, the Planning Bureau and the Attorney General's office, as well as representatives of NGOs, embassies, and other United Nations agencies attended. UNHCR was represented by staff from Headquarters and the Office of the Chief of Mission in Cyprus. The cost of the seminar to UNHCR was $ 1,700.

United States of America

13. In May, UNHCR participated in two training sessions for Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officers involved in the processing of refugee applicants. The first was held in Brunswick, Georgia on 2 May for 30 members of a task force being sent to Europe. The other took place in Miami on 3 May for another task force assigned to processing Central American asylum-seekers. On both occasions, UNHCR provided briefing on the international standards for refugee status determination.

14. An annual conference of some 75 immigration judges who play a key role in the adjudication of asylum claims in the United States was held in Miami from 15 to 17 May. UNHCR was represented by a staff member from Headquarters who addressed the conference on refugee law in the context of human rights. The total cost of these missions to UNHCR was approximately $ 7,000.



15. Two workshops on national and international refugee protection, voluntary repatriation and assistance were organized by UNHCR: The first took place in San Carlos, Special Zone III, from 13 to 15 April, and the 42 participants included government officials, NGO representatives and members of the local press. Its objective was the promotion and dissemination of UNHCR's activities.

16. The second was held in Bluefields, in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region from 21 to 23 May and was attended by government officials, including the Director of the National Refugee Office. A general presentation of UNHCR's activities in refugee protection and assistance was given, with emphasis on the link between national and international law and refugees, and their application at the national level. The total cost to UNHCR of these seminars to UNHCR was $ 6,000.


17. A seminar to train government and academics in refugee law and protection was held in Quito, from 15 to 19 May, sponsored by Ecuador's Diplomatic Academy, the International Committee of the Red Cross and UNHCR. lt was attended by 29 representatives of government departments involved in refugee matters. These included the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Labour and Migration and members of the national police and armed forces. Students from the International Science School also attended. The cost to UNHCR was $ 3,000.



18. A refugee law training programme for UNHCR, government and NGO officials who will participate in the repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan was conducted in three courses held in Lahore, Quetta and Peshawar from 8 to 16 March. Its purpose was to familiarize officials with the fundamental principles of refugee law and international protection, with particular emphasis on voluntary repatriation, and to create a close link between them and UNHCR staff members in their day-to-day contacts with refugees. The programme also sought to identify those areas and activities which should receive special attention in order to create a greater awareness of the High Commissioner's mandate and UNHCR's role in the context of voluntary repatriation. The courses were attended by 80 persons including local government officials (including the Commissioners for Afghan Refugees at Quetta and Peshawar), UNHCR staff directly associated with the repatriation programme, other United Nations staff and NGO officials. The total cost to UNHCR was $ 14,800.


19. In addition to its own promotion and training activities, UNHCR also collaborated with other institutions, within and outside the UN system, in programmes of relevance to refugee issues.

20. As part of an on-going collaboration with the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, UNHCR co-organized and participated in the seventh in a series of refugee law courses in San Remo, Italy from 8-13 May. Attended by 28 government officials and academics, the course was conducted in French, and covered a wide range of topics including the interdependence between human rights, humanitarian law and refugee law, refugee status determination criteria and procedures, and the humanitarian treatment of refugees. Workshops were conducted by UNHCR staff in refugee admission, territorial asylum, expulsion, deportation and extradition, as well as international protection and durable solutions. Travel costs for participants from developing countries were met by UNHCR. The total costs to UNHCR was $ 55,171

21. The 6th Seminar on Humanitarian Issues in the Contemporary World was held in Warsaw, Poland from 20 to 22 June under UNHCR auspices in collaboration with the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, the Polish Red Cross, and the Polish Institute of State and Law Sciences. The seminar was attended by 45 government officials, academics, experts, scholars and international personnel from Eastern European countries and other selected countries. Discussion topics included refugee and humanitarian issues such as voluntary repatriation, the contribution of international humanitarian law to international peace, respect of humanitarian standards in armed conflicts, current problems in the international protection of refugees, supervisory machinery in the implementation of international law and the promotion and ratification of conventions on the protection of war victims and refugees. The cost of the seminar to UNHCR was $ 29,439.

22. At the request of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), UNHCR collaborated in its International Law Fellowship Programme by presenting six lectures on refugee law for government advisers from developing countries at The Hague Academy of International Law, Netherlands from 31 July to 4 August. The topics included the nature of international protection, the UNHCR mandate, the refugee definition, asylum and non-refoulement.


23. Seven stagiaires were selected in September 1988 for the first half of 1989 (Winter and Spring). A second round of selection took place on 1 March 1989 to select 6 more stagiaires for the second half of the year (Summer and Fall). Arrangements also exist with the internship programmes of several universities for the pre-selection of applications to be submitted to UNHCR's Internship Programme. UNHCR's budget is estimated at $ 18,000, part of which represents subsistence expenses for interns from developing countries, which are being met by UNHCR.


24. The following activities are projected for the remainder of 1989 in the various regions:



25. A protection and education workshop on Mozambican refugees is to be held in Harare from 28 August to 3 September. The objectives are to acquaint the participants with UNHCR's mandate and address the issues of asylum, non-refoulement and social and economic rights. lt will also share and analyse UNHCR, agency and government experiences on general aspects of educational assistance in the region, with particular emphasis on primary education and non-formal and skills training. The workshop is to consider adopting a programme of "education for repatriation" which aims at helping Mozambican refugees to acquire skills for use both in the short to medium term in asylum countries, and for eventual return to Mozambique. Participants will include government officials from countries receiving Mozambican refugees. Major funding for the workshop is being provided by the Ford Foundation; UNHCR is expected to contribute $ 17,800.


26. A refugee law training seminar for government officials dealing with refugees is scheduled for Kampala in mid-September, with the objective of providing these officials with the practical training in refugee law and protection necessary for the effective discharge of their functions in dealing with asylum-seekers and refugees. Approximately 50 participants from the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs, as well as immigration officers from border posts are expected to attend. The cost of the seminar is estimated at $ 15,000.


27. A similar seminar is being planned for Dar es Salaam in late September following the Uganda seminar. Approximately 50 participants are due to attend, including officials from the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs and immigration officers from border posts. The budget for this seminar is $ 15,000.


28. Another refugee law training seminar for government officials is planned for Lomé in late 1989, along the same lines as those to be held in Uganda and Tanzania. Twenty government officials are expected to attend. The estimated budget is $ 10,000.



29. A refugee law seminar is planned for Bangkok in November to provide training for officials in the Royal Thai Government's Displaced Persons Protection Unit (DPPU) dealing with Kampuchean refugees. The seminar will focus on such topics as the UNHCR mandate, the legal basis of refugee protection, asylum and non-refoulement, the treatment of refugees in camps, their physical safety, freedom of movement and protection from detention. Some 100 officials from the Joint Operations Centre, the Ministry of the Interior, the National Security Council, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as representatives from the United Nations Border Relief Operation (UNBRO), the ICRC and local UNHCR staff are expected to participate. The Royal Thai Government will be providing most of the facilities required for this seminar, and UNHCR's contribution is estimated at $ 1,230.

30. Two courses are projected to be held in September or October for the benefit of the Thai officials involved in the determination of refugee status of Laotian asylum-seekers. They are to be held respectively in Chiang Rai and Nakhon Phanom. They will be similar in substance and approach to the training course held on 24 to 27 July in Thailand in relation to Vietnamese refugee status determination. Each course will be attended by 25 participants, including Ministry of Interior, provincial and district officials. The budget is to be finalized soon.

South-East Asia (general)

31. Follow-up training on refugee status determination has already been requested by several of the governments of the region. Some will need to be conducted before the end of 1989, and this will be determined jointly by UNHCR and the government authorities.



32. A refugee law training seminar is due to be organized by UNHCR in collaboration with Spanish lawyers and the Spanish Bar Association in Madrid in November. Fifteen participants from the Department of Immigration in the Ministry of the Interior dealing with asylum-seekers will attend. The seminar will concentrate on border and police officers dealing with asylum-seekers. UNHCR's estimated budget is $ 5,000.


33. It is planned to hold a refugee law training seminar for key government officials from the Ministries of the Interior and Foreign Affairs and police officers dealing with asylum-seekers in Ankara later on this year. Some 15 to 20 participants are expected and the budget is estimated at $ 5,000.



34. Two refugee law training seminars will be held for judges and immigration officials in September.

a) The first is designed to provide immigration officials dealing directly with refugees and asylum-seekers with practical training in refugee law and protection, so as to enhance their understanding, knowledge and skills in these areas. lt will take place in Buenos Aires from 11-16 September and will be attended by 30 persons, including UNHCR staff from the region.

b) The second seminar will be held in Iguazu, from 13-15 September, for 40 judges dealing with asylum and other refugee court cases. The objective is to strengthen their practical knowledge and understanding of refugee law and protection principles.

Both seminars will be conducted by UNHCR staff from Headquarters and the region, and the estimated budget for both is $ 11,500.


35. A protection workshop for 20 government and NGO officials is to take place in Zambrano during October to provide briefing on basic principles and objectives of refugee law and protection. The seminar will consist of lectures, group sessions and case studies, and will concentrate on the refugee definition, regional and international instruments such as the Cartagena Declaration, and the UNHCR mandate, as well as the application of basic refugee principles in Honduras. The budget is estimated at $ 8,490.


36. A refugee law seminar is due to be held in Bogota in late 1989 to train government officials and academics in refugee law and protection. lt will be addressed to staff from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other ministries, as well as the armed forces, dealing with refugee issues. The budget is estimated at $ 7,000.



37. Fifteen United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) officials from Aden, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritius, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Emirates are scheduled to participate in a refugee law training seminar in Cairo in the latter part of 1989. The seminar is aimed at providing practical training in refugee law and protection to UNDP officials who act on behalf of UNHCR in providing assistance and protection to refugees in Arab countries where UNHCR is not represented. The budget is being reviewed with a view to obtaining outside funding for this seminar. UNHCR's contribution is estimated at $ 15,000.


38. UNHCR is also co-organizing and participating in a series of activities in collaboration with the International Institute of Humanitarian Law as follows:

a) The 14th Round Table on Current Problems of Humanitarian Law to be held in San Remo, Italy, from 12-15 September. The objective is to review current problems in humanitarian and refugee law so as to enhance its promotion, particularly those arising from armed conflicts. Approximately 200 participants, including government officials, NGO personnel, lawyers and journalists are expected. The estimated budget is $ 19,000.

b) The 8th Refugee Law Course for English-speaking government officials and academics, also in San Remo, Italy in November, which is the counterpart of the 7th seminar held in May for French speakers. The budget is $ 60,000, part of which represents travel costs for participants from developing countries to be met by UNHCR.

c) A Round Table on Current Problems relating to the International Protection of Refugees and Displaced Persons in Asia; scheduled for 15-18 December in Manila, Philippines. This is a follow-up to the previous Round Table in Manila in 1980 and will discuss international protection problems of the region and make recommendations regarding their solution, Refugee law experts from the region are expected to attend. The cost is estimated at $ 17,000.

39. A staff member from UNHCR is to deliver lectures at the XVI Course on International Law to be organized by the Organization of American States (OAS) in co-operation with the Getulio Vargas Foundation, and scheduled to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during August.

40. UNHCR is due to participate in a Human Rights Interdisciplinary Course in San José, Costa Rica organized by the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, during the second half of August which will also deal with refugee rights. Approximately 150 human rights activists from various countries in the Western Hemisphere will attend. UNHCR's contribution to this course will. be $ 3,000.

41. UNHCR plans to assist the European Legal Network on Asylum (ELENA), in organizing a three-day training workshop for lawyers involved in the legal defence of refugees and asylum-seekers in Europe from 15 to 17 September. The workshop aims at providing practical advice to lawyers on the main provisions of the refugee definition, detention, non-refoulement and expulsion. lt will be conducted in English, French and German in Freudenberg, Federal Republic of Germany. UNHCR's input consists of providing course material, some of the teaching staff and partial funding of $ 3,000.