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More than 70 ministers to attend U.N. refugee meeting

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More than 70 ministers to attend U.N. refugee meeting

4 December 2001

GENEVA - More than 70 ministers have confirmed their presence at a landmark meeting on refugees next week, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said Tuesday. Another 30 States are expected shortly to confirm the identity of their senior delegates. The final tally of ministers is expected to exceed 80.

The Ministerial Meeting - the first ever of all the 142 States that have acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention - has aroused considerable interest at a time when refugees, asylum-seekers and other types of migration are increasingly featuring in hot - and sometimes highly controversial - debates in a number of countries around the world.

The meeting, which is taking place on 12-13 December at the UN's Geneva headquarters, is being co-hosted by UNHCR and the Swiss government.

Among the ministers who have confirmed their presence to date are 29 Ministers of the Interior and 17 Foreign Ministers. In addition there are three Deputy Prime Ministers and the President of Latvia, Ms. Vaira Vike-Freiberga. Ms. Vike-Freiberga, who will be giving one of the opening addresses, is not attending as head of her country's delegation, but instead in a personal capacity as a former refugee.

Ministers who have said they will be attending include South African Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Mangosuthu Buthelezi; German Foreign Minister, Mr. Joschka Fischer; UK Home Secretary, Mr. David Blunkett; Moroccan Foreign Minister, Mr. Mohamed Benaissa; Australian Minister for Immigration, Mr. Philip Ruddock; the Republic of Korea's Minister of External Affairs, Mr. Han Seung-Soo - who will appear in his capacity as the current President of the UN General Assembly; and Belgian Interior Minister Mr. Antoine Duquesne, who will also represent the Presidency of the European Union. Switzerland's Minister for Justice and Police, Mrs. Ruth Metzler-Arnold, will preside over the Meeting.

In all, the meeting has so far attracted 11 ministers from the European Union, and 27 ministers from Africa. The latter will also participate in a 14 December follow-up meeting in Geneva devoted to refugee problems in Africa.

The meeting will also be attended by a number of the states that have not yet acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol, as well as by other international organizations - including UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson - and around 80 NGOs.