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UNHCR announces winner of 2009 Nansen Refugee Award

Briefing notes

UNHCR announces winner of 2009 Nansen Refugee Award

15 September 2009

In recognition of his achievements as a life-long advocate on behalf of the world's most vulnerable people, the recipient of the 2009 Nansen Refugee Award is Senator Edward Kennedy.

Throughout his over 46 years of service in the Senate, Senator Kennedy fought for refugee and asylum legislation and won, culminating in major laws that dramatically reversed discrimination. Legal doors opened to millions of deserving asylum seekers from all over the world. These policies had a major international impact on Governments who adopted similar laws, significantly improving the treatment of refugees desperately driven to seek shelter in other parts of the world.

At a time when festering conflicts continue to uproot dramatic numbers of people, and the threat of climate change could cause millions to flee their homelands, the Nansen Refugee Committee recognizes the tremendous impact one single policy maker can make.

Senator Kennedy stood out as a champion for those who suddenly found themselves with no voice and no rights. Year after year, conflict after conflict, he put the plight of refugees on the agenda and drove through policies that saved and shaped countless lives.

We are grateful that we were able to inform Senator Kennedy of the Nansen Committee's decision in June, and deeply saddened by his passing.

The aim of Nansen Award is to focus attention on the plight of refugees and to encourage countries to do their utmost to provide protection and assistance toward integration or resettlement. It is awarded to the individual or group who has done most to further understanding and help for individuals and populations forced to flee. In the U.S. and around the world, Senator Kennedy did more to provide protection for refugees and hope for their futures than any single policy maker.