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Caribbean not immune to impact of war, says UNHCR

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 11.20.51 AMFrom Jamaica Observer

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The United Commission for Human Rights says the Caribbean is not immune from the impact of war, violence, persecution and discrimination.

In a statement to mark World Refugee Day, being observed today, the United nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said “no country or region in the world is immune from the impact.

“Consistent with global trends, the Caribbean region has experienced rising numbers of asylum applications in recent years. The number of refugees and asylum seekers in the region, rose to 2,544 in 2015, which is an increase of 140 per cent from 2014,” it said, noting that the main countries of origin are El Salvador, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Syria, Colombia, and Haiti.

Trinidad and Tobago has also shared the trends in the region and the number of asylum seekers registered with UNHCR has continuously increased over the past three years.

“There are currently 227 persons of concern to UNHCR: 123 are asylum-seekers and 104 are refugees, mostly from Cuba, Syria, Bangladesh, Colombia, Nigeria and Jamaica.

The UNHCR in Trinidad and Tobago provides technical and capacity-building advice to country authorities to support the progressive development of a comprehensive asylum system in line with the government’s refugee policy, and direct assistance to refugees and asylum seekers through and in coordination with its implementing partner Living Water Community.

The UNHCR said that athough Trinidad and Tobago acceded to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol in November 2000, “there is no national legislation governing asylum matters.

“Nevertheless, the adoption of the Refugee Policy in 2014 was a highlight in the region and Trinidad and Tobago was highly commended for it during the last session of the Universal Periodic Review in May.

“As part of its implementation, the adoption of specific legislation is key to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees enjoy all the rights enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention, as there are no current avenues for refugees to legally integrate into the country and positively contribute to its development with their energy, their ideas and their restored hopes.”

The UNHCR said that in addition, meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which recognises the many positive benefits of migration, would reduce the need for migrants to leave their homes in search of greater opportunities by addressing some of the root causes of involuntary movements of refugees and migrants.

“Refugees are persons like any of us who have had to flee. In commemoration of World Refugee Day, which is celebrated every year on 20 June, the UNHCR had invited Trinidad and Tobago public to show its solidarity for people forced to flee by signing the global #WithRefugees petition.”

It said the signed petition will be delivered to United Nations Headquarters in New York ahead of the UN High Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants in September.

IMAGE: DARAA, Syria — Displaced Syrian children from the town of Daraa, sit at a makeshift school set up in a tent provided by the United Nations agency for refugees UNHCR, in the Daraa area in southern Syria.

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