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High Commissioner in Brazil

Briefing notes

High Commissioner in Brazil

8 November 2005

The High Commissioner is in Brazil on a two-day mission - his first visit to Latin America since he took office in June. Today, the second and final day of his mission, he is scheduled to meet with President Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva; the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs; the National Bishops Conference; and parliamentarians.

Mr. Guterres will be seeking support for the Mexico Plan of Action - an operational instrument to protect and assist refugees - as well as Brazil's continued promotion of refugee issues at regional and international fora.

Mr.Guterres is visiting Brazil in recognition of its commitment to the protection of refugees and of its regional leadership on refugee issues. Brazil is also an influential player on a number of international issues and promises to be an active partner in the promotion of tolerance for refugees within the international community at large. Likewise, Brazil has the capacity to help in preventing the exacerbation of conflicts in the region which may result in refugee outflows.

Yesterday (Monday), Mr. Guterres met with the Minister of Justice; the National Refugee Committee (CONARE); ambassadors from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries (GRULAC); and with refugees from Colombia, Iraq, Rwanda, Peru, the former Yugoslavia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola and Georgia. In all of his encounters, the High Commissioner cited Brazil's tradition of asylum as a model of solidarity with refugees. Mr. Guterres also expressed his commitment to enhanced efforts with partners towards the integration of urban refugees, a challenge UNHCR currently faces throughout Latin America.

Brazil was one of the first countries in Latin America to sign (in 1960) the 1951 Refugee Convention. It was also the first country in southern South America to pass a national refugee law in 1997. Last year, it played an important role in the adoption by 20 Latin American states of the Mexico Plan of Action. Along with Chile, Brazil has also established one of the first resettlement programmes in Latin America, under which it has received 170 refugees, most of them Colombian. It has also granted asylum to some 3,000 refugees from 58 countries.