UNHCR Briefing Notes: HC at OAU Summit, FYR of Macedonia/Kosovo
1. High Commissioner at OAU Summit
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers arrived in Zambia yesterday to attend the OAU Heads of State summit which opened in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, on 5 July. The High Commissioner is scheduled to meet with Zambian President Frederick Chiluba and other African leaders expected at the summit. In his talks with some of the continent's leaders, Mr. Lubbers will be stressing that durable solutions to many of the refugee problems in Africa - where there are 3.6 million refugees - depend on the successful implementation of a number of existing peace agreements.
This morning, the High Commissioner is visiting Kala refugee camp, some 160 kms from Zambia's northern border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kala has more than 18,000 Congolese refugees who fled last year's advance of the Rwandan army on DRC's south-eastern Katanga Province. On Saturday, the High Commissioner is expected to travel to Nangweshi camp in western Zambia, where there are more than 14,000 Angolan refugees. Zambia is host to 260,000 refugees, including 198,000 Angolans and 45,000 Congolese.
2. former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia/Kosovo
There have been no reported refugee movements along the FYROM-Kosovo border nearly 10 hours after a cease-fire agreement between FYROM and ethnic Albanian rebels was to take effect at midnight. UNHCR staff along the border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia reported hearing heavy fighting at the area of Tetovo and nearby Radusa this morning. Up until sunrise, helicopters were active in the area and bombing could be heard at the Kosovo border.
FYROM has been calm in general and the number of refugee arrivals has gone down considerably in recent days. Since July 1, around 250 refugees have entered Kosovo, including 62 on Thursday. Some 5,500 returns to FYROM also were reported over the past week, including 516 on Thursday, most to Skopje.
Since fighting broke out in FYROM, 74,248 refugees have entered Kosovo from FYROM. Another 35,339 were reported to be displaced in FYROM.
UNHCR welcomes the publication of the long-awaited report by the Independent Immigration Commission - commonly referred to as the Süssmuth Commission - in Germany on Wednesday. The findings and recommendations of the report - which contains a detailed analysis of Germany's immigration needs over the coming years - mark a significant shift of thinking by a major European nation by showing that immigration not only can be a positive process, but is in fact a necessary one.
UNHCR has long been concerned that virtually all migration measures in Europe have been exclusionary in nature and have placed a major burden on the asylum system - which was perceived as the only "open door." As a result, it has been UNHCR's view that a separate but complementary migration system is essential to relieve the pressures on the asylum system. Zero migration policies, and draconian exclusionary measures have simply fed the development and proliferation of people smuggling networks, and have had a severe impact on the ability of refugees to gain access to Europe at all.
UNHCR believes that if the report's recommendations are acted upon, and result in a coherent, managed migration system, it will help everyone: refugees, migrant workers and governments, since it will reduce the attraction of the smuggling networks. The climate of hostility that has risen in tandem with this in some countries has also had some very negative effects on asylum-seekers and the refugees among them. UNHCR particularly welcomes the fact that the Commission addressed both asylum and migration issues, examining the interlinkages between them, while maintaining their very distinct identities.
While the Commission's report has not yet been translated into government policy, UNHCR hopes that not only will it have a positive effect on the reception and treatment of asylum-seekers in Germany, but will also feed into the extremely important asylum and immigration harmonization process now underway within the European Union. The report also contains a number of concrete proposals aimed at increasing the efficiency of the current German asylum procedures. UNHCR would also like to stress that if Germany and other European nations move into a new migration era, they do not simply look abroad for the skilled professionals they need to fill the shortfalls in various sectors. Many refugees already in European countries are highly skilled and trained professionals who could be properly utilized if efforts were actually made to identify them. In this regard UNHCR also applauds a recent initiative by the British government to look for nurses among the asylum-seekers in the UK. We hope there will be more imaginative initiatives of this type.
This document is intended for public information purposes only. It is not an official UN document.