UN agency calls on Haiti's neighbours to open borders to those fleeing strife

26 February 2004
Children, women flee fighting areas in Gonaives

The United Nations refugee agency today urged Haiti's neighbours to open their borders to those forced to flee the worsening civil strife in the Caribbean country.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a statement from its headquarters in Geneva saying it was coordinating contingency plans with Haiti's neighbours in case there is a large outflow of refugees.

Hope Hanlan, the UNHCR's Director for the Americas, cited the 1951 Refugee Convention in calling on governments in the region to respond humanely to any Haitians seeking asylum because of the current turmoil.

"Obviously, not everyone who leaves a country is a refugee," Ms. Hanlan said, "but those who are forced to flee must have access to international protection."

Since the recent outbreak of political violence began in Haiti, the UNHCR has reported 30 people have sought asylum in Cuba, 62 in Jamaica, and up to 300 in the Dominican Republic.

The agency has already boosted its staff presence in the Dominican Republic in anticipation of the arrival of more asylum-seekers, while discussing its contingency plans with Cuba, Jamaica and the United States.

 

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