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Estonia Gives Support to Improve Situation of Refugees


No. 318–E

The UN estimates that there are currently 43 million refugees in the world, which is the highest number in the last 15 years. Since the year 2000 Estonia has supported the activities of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) through regular annual donations as well as through support for UNHCR activities in specific countries to improve the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that Estonia is one of the biggest supporters of the High Commissioner for Refugees in Eastern Europe. Estonia’s contribution to support the activities of the UNHCR in 2011 has so far totalled 200 000 euros. “This year through the UNHCR Estonia has supported, for example, helping Somalian refugees and IDPs in the Horn of Africa and helped to improve the food supply and access to education for children in South Sudan,” said Paet. According to the foreign minister, Estonia will continue to support improving the situation of refugees in various crises next year through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Among those who are affected by violence, conflicts and humanitarian disasters, women and children are frequently the ones who are most vulnerable. “We support the UNHCR’s efforts to alleviate the situation of refugee women and children. The significant improvement of women’s rights and safety in the world is one of Estonia’s priorities in its foreign policy, development co-operation, and human rights-related activities,” Paet stated.

Conflicts caused by natural disasters and human acts have become more and more complicated, and they are frequently accompanied by humanitarian crises and large numbers of people becoming refugees. Another problem is an increase in the number of people who must flee to a different part of their own country to escape persecution, famine, or natural disasters. These people also have to leave their homes behind and are forced to live in refugee camps. Most of the world’s refugees who have been forced by external factors to leave their homes reside in Africa and the Middle East.

The annual meeting of the UNHCR Executive Committee is taking place from 3-7 October in Geneva. The Estonian delegation will be led by Ambassador Jüri Seilenthal, who will give a speech during the general debate.

The UNHCR Executive Committee is the highest leading organ of the UNHCR and currently has a membership of 85 states. States that have joined the committee remain permanent members. Estonia was chosen to be a member of the committee on 25 April 2007.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is an international humanitarian aid organisation whose primary goal is to lead international activities geared towards improving the situation and protecting the rights of refugees by offering multi-faceted aid and finding solutions that will improve the situation of refugees. Aid is primarily given for people to start again in a normal environment, or refugees are given aid in returning home when the situation there has normalised. In addition, the goal of the activities of the UNHCR is to ensure legal protection for stateless individuals, provide aid to repatriate or re-settle refugees and, when necessary, offer material assistance.


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