Geneva: Tuesday 6 December 2011Briefer: Melissa Fleming / UNHCR Chief SpokespersonTopics: 1 - International conference on forcibly displaced, stateless opens tomorrow 2 - Boat tragedy off Moroccan coast, 4 dead, several boats rescued off Malta, Italy and Libya This is a summary of what was said by the UNHCR spokesperson at today’s Palais des Nations press briefing in Geneva. Further information can be found on the UNHCR websites, www.unhcr.org and www.unhcr.fr, which should also be checked for regular media updates on non-briefing days. 1 - International conference on forcibly displaced, stateless opens tomorrow The largest conference on refugees and stateless people in UNHCR’s 60 years opens tomorrow at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. So far 145 countries have confirmed their participation. More than 70 will be represented at ministerial level. The conference is the culmination of political and diplomatic efforts over many years by UNHCR to rally renewed support and commitments for the fundamental legal treaties enabling the UN refugee agency to provide protection and assistance to refugees and stateless people worldwide. 2011 has seen the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, as well as the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. What we hope to achieve through this conference is improved support for the world’s forcibly displaced and stateless. Some 35 states have indicated that they will be making pledges of policy and other action, and a number of states are expected to accede to one or more of the statelessness conventions. Three countries will review their reservations to the 1951 Convention with a view to withdrawing them. And more than ten states will work towards reviewing, amending or adopting national asylum laws and policies, to bring them more in line with their international obligations and current realities. A number of states will take steps to improve the quality of refugee status determination, particularly through increasing capacity and expertise. Durable solutions will feature in many states pledges, especially in Africa, with commitments to facilitate local integration. With statelessness, several countries have indicated intentions to improve levels of birth registration, facilitate access to documentation and revise nationality legislation. …/… Communications HQPI00 Tel (41 22) 739 85 02 and Public Information P.O. Box 2500 Fax (41 22) 739 73 14 Service CH-1211 Geneva 2 www.unhcr.org
…/ …During a special treaty event at 18:00 on 7 December countries will depositinstruments of accession to one of the conventions. Those doing so will be joined byother states that have acceded during 2011, as well as countries expected toaccede soon.UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres will address the openingsession on Wednesday morning. In addition, there will be a video address by UNSecretary General Ban Ki-moon. Among other speakers are US Secretary of StateHillary Clinton, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, President of the SwissConfederation Micheline Calmy-Rey and others.Guest Speaker:Volker Turk, Director of UNHCR’s Division of International Protection.For further information on this topic, please contact:In Geneva: Melissa Fleming on mobile +41 79 557 9122 Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120 Babar Baloch on mobile +41 79 557 9106 Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483 Andrej Mahecic on mobile +41 79 200 7617 Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 91382 – Boat tragedy off Moroccan coast, 4 dead, several boats rescued offMaltese, Italian and Libyan coastsUNHCR received news late last week of a rescue by the Moroccan Royal Navy of avessel with more than 60 people. 53 people on board were rescued while four werefound to have died. The boat was found a few kilometres offshore from Dar Kabdaniin the north of the country. A number of people are known to have drowned andtheir bodies have not yet been recovered.Among the passengers were children under the age of ten, and women, somepregnant. The dead included a Congolese woman and her daughter, who UNHCRidentified at the morgue. They were both registered refugees. The passengersmentioned that a Congolese refugee, a young man, is known to have drowned. Hisbody has not been recovered.Separately, two sailing boats with around 80 people onboard and of differentnationalities (mostly Afghans) departing from Greece, were rescued by the Italiancoastguard on Monday after a week at sea. They were found dehydrated and withno food and water left.UNHCR has also been informed that a boat that left from the Libyan coast over theweekend was rescued by the Maltese Armed Forces overnight. Fourty-four peoplewere reported to be onboard. Many are Somali, according to a Somali journalistwho contacted our office in Rome.
…/ …The Libyan coast guard has reported that up to four hundred people were rescuedfrom boats off the Libyan coast in recent days. It now seems that migrants andrefugees are once again attempting to use Libya as a transit route to Europe. Inyears gone past it was rare to see boats attempting to make the perilous crossingduring the winter.For further information on this topic, please contact:In Rome: Federico Fossi on mobile. +39 349 084 3461In Valetta, Fabrizio Ellul on mobile +356 99 69 0081In Geneva: Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 9138 ****