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High Commissioner to open Dialogue on Protection today

Briefing notes

High Commissioner to open Dialogue on Protection today

11 December 2007

Representatives of some 70 governments are expected to take part in a two-day UNHCR-sponsored meeting that begins here this afternoon to examine the difficult challenges we're facing in ensuring the protection of refugees among the millions of migrants now on the move worldwide.

The 'High Commissioner's Dialogue on Protection Challenges' will open at 1400 hours in Room XIX here in the Palais. Media are invited to cover the opening statements by High Commissioner António Guterres; UNOG Director-General Sergei Ordzhonikidze and others. The rest of the day-and-a-half meeting is closed.

We will provide a press release and copies of the High Commissioner's opening remarks early this afternoon, and will fill you in tomorrow on the meeting results.

The aim of this meeting, the first in a series of such dialogues on current asylum and refugee-related challenges, is to provide an open and relatively informal forum in which we can examine with governments how we can better ensure that refugees fleeing violence and persecution can be identified and protected among the millions of other people on the move in today's world. As the High Commissioner notes, the world's 10 million refugees constitute only a small proportion of the 200 million or more people who are now living outside their own country. But increasingly, these refugees are to be found in mixed movements, travelling in the same directions, using the same routes and means of transport as migrants.

So the challenge is to ensure that refugees are able to find the international protection they deserve as governments worldwide try to grapple with growing migratory movements on their borders. Governments must be able to distinguish between those who are forced to flee and those who choose to move for economic or other reasons. In this sense, asylum is inextricably linked with migration and we want to ensure that people who are in need of protection have access to the territory of other states, and are able to have their case assessed in fair and effective asylum procedures. And we want to make sure that government border controls are implemented in a manner that is sensitive to protection concerns and to the rights of refugees.

We're all aware of the ongoing tragedies involving boat people in the Gulf of Aden, the Caribbean, off the coast of West Africa and in and around the Mediterranean - where more than 50 people drowned in the Aegean just this past weekend. So discussions will also focus on how we can work with governments and partners to promote measures that will save those who are in distress on the high seas and ensure their safe and timely disembarkation. We also want to see more action taken to crack down on human traffickers and smugglers, and to ensure that the victims of these crimes are properly protected.

UNHCR has launched a special Asylum/Migration section on its website which contains the latest facts and figures, video, photographs and useful information on protecting refugees and asylum seekers in mixed migration flows.