The home on the crossroads

It′s been 10 years since representative office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees started in Minsk. Belarus and UNHCR have accumulated sufficient experience in helping people in trouble. We asked Ilya TODOROVYCH, representative of UNHCR Office in Belarus, to tell about this
It′s been 10 years since representative office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees started in Minsk. Belarus and UNHCR have accumulated sufficient experience in helping people in trouble. We asked Ilya TODOROVYCH, representative of UNHCR Office in Belarus, to tell about this.

— Mr. Todorovych, what was the good from the Office to our people, our country and the whole world?

— After the collapse of USSR in 1991 it was evident that a vast number of moved persons, foreigners looking for asylum and stateless persons emerged in new independent states; on the other hand, these states were short of real experience and resources to solve these problems. Thus, UNHCR Office was started in 1995 in Belarus to help the authority in settleing migration problems.

I must say first that refugees (about 750 in Belarus today) have not just found shelter here – they have found a new place they can call their home now, many of them have become Belarus citizens. By the end of 2005 volume of UNHCR Belarusian Office investments into all these activities is expected to reach $4,600,000. Summarizing the 10-year activity of UNHCR Office in Belarus, I can say this country has shelter system one of the best in CIS that and your country can be proud of its truly humane approach to migration management.

— On the other side, Belarus apparently plays a prominent part as an outpost in fighting illegal migration in Europe. Does the EU appreciate these efforts?

— Really, transit countries like yours are facing the increasing international significance of illegal entry and human beings traffic. I cannot speak on behalf of the EU, yet UN supports Belarus′ intent to be equal to international expectations and meet standards in this realm. The role of your country in resisting illegal migration is even more important today, when the outer border of the EU is immediately adjacent to Belarusian frontier.

— And now, please tell about tomorrow. What kind of projects is UNHCR Office in Belarus planning for future prospect?

— For example, we are planning to create an ark of refuge in Gomel that will host 25 refugees and persons looking for shelter, in cooperation with the local authority. I would like to emphasize again that the successful work of UNHCR Office in Belarus was determined by close cooperation with the Government, which stands as our main partner. Belarus performs active participation in refugee migration problems and serves as a standard in migration laws for many countries. We would applaud if Belarusian experience were adopted by other states.

Irina Petrova
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