Minister Kitt welcomes World Refugee Day
On World Refugee Day the Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Overseas Development and Human Rights, Mr. Tom Kitt, T.D., affirmed that protecting refugees is a shared international responsibility – from international organisations such as the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, to donor nations like Ireland, to the many non-governmental organisations active in providing relief and assistance. The Minister said “we all play a vital role in protecting and assisting the world's most vulnerable victims, most of whom are women and children”
The Minister noted that Ireland is a leading contributor of humanitarian assistance to refugees. “In 2003 just under €7 million has been earmarked from the Ireland Aid budget to assist the work of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees”.
The Minister went on to pay tribute to the work of the UNHCR in protecting the basic human rights of vulnerable persons and seeking to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State.
The Minister said that Ireland's commitment to refugee protection is evidenced by our longstanding membership of the UNHCR Resettlement Programme. The Resettlement Programme arranges for the resettlement in third countries of refugees who cannot return to their homes and who face protection problems in the country where they first sought asylum. Under this programme an average of 40-50 individuals are resettled in Ireland every year.
The Minister made this statement following his visit to Western Uganda. Minister Kitt said “On the occasion of World Refugee Day, I have visited Refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who have crossed recently into Western Uganda. They are living in very difficult circumstances and are completely dependent on humanitarian aid from the International Community. I am considering ways in which we can provide support to these Refugees from our programme. I will also be raising their plight with the relevant UN & International Agencies.”
Note for Editors
For years, many countries and regions have been holding their own Refugee Days and even Weeks. One of the most widespread is Africa Refugee Day, which is celebrated on 20 June in several countries.
As an expression of solidarity with Africa, which hosts the most refugees, and which traditionally has shown them great generosity, a special UN General Assembly Resolution was unanimously adopted in 2000 which designated 20 June every year as World Refugee Day.
2003 is the third year in which World Refugee Day has been marked. World Refugee Day 2003 is dedicated to refugee youth. Its purpose is to bring to the forefront of everyone's consciousness the existence of young refugees, their needs, and above all their strengths and capabilities to help themselves and their communities.