UN refugee chief to head to Yemen
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres will embark on a five-day mission to Yemen tomorrow to assess the agency's efforts to help refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) first-hand.
During his mission, Mr. Guterres will also attend the opening of the UNHCR-backed Regional Conference on Refugee Protection and International Migration to be held in the capital Sana'a from 19-20 May.
Before attending this event, the High Commissioner visit UNCHR offices in Sana'a and Aden, along with the Kharaz refugee camp. He will also talk to urban refugees in Basateen in Aden and stop at UNHCR reception centres on Yemen's southern coastline.
In addition to Yemeni officials, Mr. Guterres will also meet with Somalis and Ethiopians who arrived in the Middle Eastern nation after making the hazardous journey across the Gulf of Aden in search of protection or a better life.
More than 15,300 people have been smuggled to Yemen so far this year, twice the number for the same period last year. “More than 360 people died making the voyage during the first four months of 2008,” UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva.
The Regional Conference is being organized by UNHCR in collaboration with the European Commission (EC)-funded Mixed Migration Task Force for Somalia, comprising international agencies working in the Horn of African nation. The gathering seeks to create a regional mechanism and a strategy to protect refugees and mixed migration in the region.
Yemen has been burdened with irregular migratory movements, but has kept an open-door policy to refugees. The country is calling for stepped up support from the international community, and UNHCR and other agencies have enhanced moves to support Yemen and other nations in the region and are also urging global action to enhance the response to the challenges.
Participants at the Conference will discuss the issues in the main countries of departure, transit and arrival. The action plan created will partially be based on UNHCR's 2006 Ten-Point Plan of Action on Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration that sets out a number of measures to assist States in dealing with the issue.
The two-day event will bring together senior level government officials from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia (including Somaliland and Puntland), Yemen and the Gulf Cooperation countries, as well as representatives from the African Union, the EC, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and civil society representatives.