On June 20th the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Sierra Leone will join its Commission worldwide to commemorate the World Refugee Day.
UNHCR acting representative, Abid Ali Mir at his Aberdeen Road head office briefed media practitioners about the significance of the occasion and the operations of the agency. Mr Mir explained that there are 42,000 Sierra Leonean refuges worldwide, adding that for the past 50 years, the agency has helped “something more than 50 million people in different situations in different parts of the world.”
He disclosed, “as of now we have over 6,000 staff present in 110 countries [who are responsible for] 32 million Internally Displaced Persons and refugees the world over.
“We celebrate the World Refugee Day on June 20, to remind ourselves, partners and the rest of the world a noble cause of protecting refugees and to raise global awareness of the challenges faced by refugees” Mr Mir said. He pointed out that this year’s celebration will not only be limited to speeches but several activities which have been slated for the day, which include a football match between refugees and host communities.
UNHCR as a refugee agency of the United Nations system, Mr Mir explained was established in 1950 on a national assembly resolution and mandated to “look after refugees.” He explained that the UNHCR is mandated to protect the right of asylum of refugees and to look after their wellbeing and strive to find durable solutions for the refugee’s life in all refuge situations in three orders of priority. The first he said is “voluntary repatriation” to take them back to their countries of origin, once the main reason for them leaving their countries has been dissolved. He stated that if for any reason they are not willing to go back and the host government accepts them, “we work on local integration.” The third priority is mostly based on the will of third countries and on the serious protection needs of the refugees who will then be resettled to third countries. He commended the government of Sierra Leone pointing out that there is a convention relating to the status of refugees of 1951 which the government of Sierra Leone is a signatory to, adding that “the government have always upheld high standards of asylum in accordance with those conventions for which we are very grateful to the past government and have looked after a large number of refugees in an exemplary way by upholding all those basic asylum and immunity standards.”