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Working visit of the High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres

Published Monday February 07 2011

On 7 February 2011, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, paid a working visit to Luxembourg. During a meeting which was followed by a joint press conference, Marie-Josée Jacobs, Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, and António Guterres underlined the good relations between Luxembourg and the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (HCR), a long-standing partner of Luxembourg's Development Cooperation. Minister Jacobs recalled that the refugee question, with more than 43 million refugees around the world, remains a daunting challenge. In this regard, Luxembourg takes action at two levels, providing humanitarian assistance as well as help to resettle refugees that cannot return to their homes. High Commissioner Guterres thanked Luxembourg for its continued support, particularly valued because the question of refugees and displaced persons is increasingly difficult, especially as conflicts last long, for example in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle-East or Sudan, Chad, Somalia and Yemen, which are the countries of origin of two thirds of the refugees that the HCR is aware of. According to António Guterres, two additional factors aggravate the situation : the shrinking of the humanitarian space, with an increase of human rights violations and access difficulties on one hand, and the dwindling importance that many countries in a crisis attach to human rights when defending their national sovereignty, oftentimes limiting the access for humanitarian workers even further, on the other hand.   For the High Commissioner, Europe has a determining role to play, as a place of asylum for refugees who have lost all hope to be able to return home and lead a life in dignity and security. He also recalled that 2011 would offer the occasion to commemorate the convention of 28 July 1951 relating to the Status of Refugees, which was followed ten years later by the convention on the reduction of statelessness. Regarding the support of Luxembourg, António Guterres underlined that Luxembourg has helped to modernize the HCR, notably through financial support to the first operational phase of a joint project of Luxembourg, the HCR and Skype which aims to allow refugees in camps to keep in touch with their families and colleagues. During his working visit in Luxembourg, the High Commissioner also met with Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, with the Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean Asselborn and with the Minister for Work, Employment and Immigration Nicolas Schmit. With Minister Asselborn, the High Commissioner discussed the activities of the HCR in Sudan, Somalia and Ivory Coast.