By Yekaterian Nechaeva
At their spring session, our parliamentarians plan to ratify an agreement between Belarus and the UNHCR regarding co-operation and the legal status of the UNHCR Office and its personnel in the Republic. A relevant bill is currently pending consideration within the profile commission.
Belarus’ obligation to collaborate with the UNHCR is envisaged by the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, adopted in 1951 and ratified in May 2001. However, until now, there has been no agreement on interaction between the parties. The legal status of the UNHCR Office and its staff in Belarus was not formalised either.
Of course, this has not prevented the UNHCR Office from carrying out its mission in our country. However, it has been not an independent organisation, but acted as a structural subdivision of the UN Transitional Office in Belarus. This has led to an increase in administrative costs for both organisations and longer implementation periods for certain projects.
Nearly 400 people in Belarus annually receive varied assistance from the UNHCR. More than 50 foreigners have been granted refugee status and accommodated in the hostels of Minsk, Mogilev, Stolbtsy and Pinsk. The UNHCR has financed hostel repairs and the acquisition of necessary equipment, while helping open four temporary refugee and asylum seeker accommodation centres (in Brest, Vitebsk and Gomel and at Minsk National Airport). Two companies founded by public refugee organisations are operating in Grodno and Gomel and employ 23 refugees. Over 200 refugees have been repatriated or sent to third countries with UNHCR assistance.
Once the agreement is ratified, the financing system of this international organisation and its projects in Belarus will become more transparent and efficient.