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High Commissioner's Dialogue on protracted refugee situations

Briefing notes

High Commissioner's Dialogue on protracted refugee situations

5 December 2008

More than 40 governments are expected to participate in next week's second annual "High Commissioner's Dialogue on Protection Challenges," which this year will focus on the search for solutions for millions of people caught in the limbo of so-called "protracted refugee situations."

The two-day meeting opens Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Room XVII with opening remarks by High Commissioner António Guterres and a keynote speech by Tanzanian Prime Minister Mizengo Kayanza Peter Pinda. Both opening statements will be open to media, but the rest of the session will be closed. We will issue press releases on the opening day as well as at the conclusion of the meeting.

According to UNHCR's latest statistical information, some 6 million people - excluding Palestinians - in 30 different refugee situations worldwide have now been living in exile for five years or longer. Many have been in limbo for a decade or more, with growing numbers of refugee children who have been born and raised in exile and who have never set foot in their "homeland." The vast majority of these protracted situations are in Africa and Asia, many in countries that are already struggling to meet the needs of their own citizens. All too many refugees are effectively trapped for years in the camps and communities where they are accommodated, with no solutions in sight. In some cases, they have no freedom of movement, no access to land and are forbidden from working. In desperation, many refugees eventually take the risk of moving elsewhere, often falling prey to human smugglers and traffickers.

As the High Commissioner states in an op-ed pegged to the conference (copies are available at the back of the room), it is intolerable that the human potential of so many people is being wasted during their time in exile, and imperative that steps are taken to provide them with a solution to their plight.

Next week's meeting will examine five situations in different parts of the world where refugees have been living in exile for extended periods: Afghan refugees in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan; refugees from Myanmar in Bangladesh; Bosnian and Croatian refugees in Serbia; Burundian refugees in Tanzania; and Eritrean refugees in eastern Sudan. Various strategies and solutions for approaching protracted situations will also be discussed by participants, who will also include representatives of non-governmental and inter-governmental organisations.