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Question on Haiti: corrected reply

Briefing notes

Question on Haiti: corrected reply

16 February 2004

QUESTION: The Associated Press asked the spokesman for UNHCR's response to the Dominican Republic's public expressions of concern about the Haiti situation and possible border closures.

CORRECTION: In his reply, the spokesman stated that all of the neighbouring states were signatories to the 1951 Convention. This is incorrect. Most of them are signatories (including the Dominican Republic), but not all.

Spokesman: I understand UNHCR is awaiting a request form the Dominican Republic for our help in reviewing and implementing existing contingency plans. We are ready to help in any way we can to assist the Dominican Republic to receive refugees and respond to their needs.

In Cuba, we have undertaken a joint contingency planning mission at the request of the Cuban government and planning is being updated in view of the current situation.

In the past, Haitians have turned up in neighbouring states and islands, including the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Cuba, and Turks and Caicos, and, of course, the United States.

In the event of any outflow we hope and expect that states would respond humanely and in line with their obligations under the 1951 Convention. Most of them are signatories. UNHCR is ready to help the countries in the region respond to a possible refugee situation.

Our emergency coordinator for the Haiti situation is in Washington this week and he and our representative there meeting with various Caribbean and concerned governments.