Minister Kitt Raises situation in Sudan, Burundi and Liberia with UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers
On 22 January, Minister of State Kitt met with Mr. Ruud Lubbers, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Mr. Lubbers was in Dublin to attend the informal meeting of EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers and to discuss humanitarian issues of concern to UNHCR and to the EU. The meeting with Mr. Lubbers focussed on the situations in Sudan, Burundi and Liberia.
Minister of State Kitt raised the issue of the humanitarian situation in Dafur, Sudan where an internal rebellion has resulted in a large refugee outflow to Chad, the neighbouring country. The situation in Dafur is one of the most challenging humanitarian emergencies in Africa and is of profound concern to the European Union and to UNHCR.
Humanitarian aid agencies have had difficulties gaining access to the Dafur region. Minister of State Kitt and High Commissioner Lubbers discussed the very difficult humanitarian situation in the region and the explored the possibility of organising a UN fact finding mission to the region.
The internal situation in Burundi was also discussed and Minister of State Kitt briefed High Commissioner Lubbers on the Government's support for humanitarian assistance and peace-keeping in Burundi. The internal security situation in the country, following the assassination in December of the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Michael Courtney, was also reviewed.
High Commissioner Lubbers indicated that UNHCR believed the internal situation in Burundi was stabilising and UNHCR was beginning to advise the 300,000 refugees in camps in Tanzania that they should begin to prepare to return home. UNHCR is now facilitating these refugee returns.
Minister of State Kitt and the High Commissioner also reviewed the situation in Liberia where Ireland has contributed peace-keeping forces to the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). It was agreed that Development Cooperation Ireland and UNHCR will discuss cooperation on the ground in Liberia, including in support of UNHCR's efforts to return internally displaced people to their homes.
Speaking after the meeting with Mr. Lubbers, Minister of State Kitt said: “Ireland has a close working relationship with the UN High Commission for Refugees which is one of our key partners in the UN system. I used my meeting today with Mr. Lubbers to discuss major humanitarian and refugee emergencies in Africa, including in Sudan, Burundi and Liberia. These situations, where UNHCR is protecting hundreds of thousands of refugees, do not receive sufficient attention from the donor community. In keeping with the priority given to Africa in our EU Presidency, the High Commissioner and I had a very useful discussion about UNHCR's key role in these emergencies. We emphasised the need for access by humanitarian agencies to help relive the suffering of the people in Dafur, Sudan. I think it essential that a fact finding mission should be given access to the region as soon as possible.”
Note for Editors
In 2003, Development Cooperation Ireland contributed €6.893m to the core resources of the UNHCR. We also allocated an additional €1m to help fund UNHCR's activities in Angola.