The 53rd Session of the Executive Committee of the Program of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees



GENEVA - 1 October 2002 -

Mr. Chairman,
Mr. High Commissioner,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please allow me to begin by joining previous speakers and by congratulating you, Mr. Chairman, for assuming this important task and to welcome the new Vice-Chairman and Rapporteur. I would also like to extend our appreciation to the outgoing Bureau, especially to Ambassador Molander for his constructive and engaged activity deployed during this year as Chairman of the Executive Committee.

Mr. Chairman,

My delegation has joined the statement presented earlier by the distinguished representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union and the associated countries, and fully shares the views contained therein. On a more particular note, however, please allow me to take this opportunity and briefly address some of Romania’s more recent efforts aimed at building a more efficient national asylum system. New progress has been achieved in Romania in terms of identification and enforcement of an enhanced mechanism for refugee protection, brought about through a series of measures that include:

· a close cooperation of our national authorities with the UNHCR Bucharest office in order to enhance the quality of the refugee status determination procedure in Romania and

· a comprehensive training program capable to contribute to the capacity-building at different administrative and judicial levels.

At the same time, I would mention here that, as part of the general reform of the Ministry of the Interior, the demilitarisation of the National Office for Refugees has been accomplished. The result is a greater flexibility in improving Romania’s capacity of acting in accordance with its international commitments, including the 1951 Convention.

As you may know, over the past decade, Romania has started to become an asylum country for refugees, mainly from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. More clearly, it has been a gateway for transitory migration towards Western Europe. In this context, our strong aspirations to join both the European Union and NATO are of a nature to gradually lead to greater effectiveness in managing population flows, in cooperation with our European Partners and according to international standards of human rights.

Due to the relative novelty of the institution of asylum, coupled with the presence of a considerable number of other categories of aliens in the country, we have found that, at times, the distinction between these and real was indeed difficult to make. Efforts to build awareness have had successful results at national level and with the media. People are, indeed, beginning to pay greater attention to refugee issues in our country.

Mr. Chairman,

The new Romanian Refugee Law adopted in 2001 brings significant improvements to Romania's refugee status determination procedure such as the inclusion of specific safeguards against refoulement, the incorporation of Article 3 of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights and the inclusion of parts of the EU acquis on asylum.

A non-reimbursable aid to recognized refugees was initiated 4 years ago and even though the amount of aid granted is still low, an Integration Government Decision stipulates in addition access of all recognized refugees to accommodation for a maximum period of one year in Government centers, access to Romanian language learning, cultural orientation, vocational training, the national system of education, health insurance, state welfare and the labor market. The ultimate purpose of our national policies in the field of asylum remains the support of recognized refugees to obtain their self-reliance as human beings and be able to choose eventually for their integration as resourceful members in our country.

At the same time, Romania has sought to enhance its role and commitment at the international level. Building inter-institutional partnerships in addressing common problems was one of the priorities of the Romanian Chairmanship of the OSCE last year, with a good pattern of cooperation developing with the UNHCR during field missions in the Caucuses and Central Asia. Moreover, in the context of the general efforts by the High Commissioner to broaden the donor base and achieve a more equitable burden sharing, Romania is in the process of preparing the internal groundwork that will allow it to offer voluntary contributions to UNHCR, as an expression of our commitment to the goals and objectives set forth by the UNHCR.

Mr. Chairman,

In our opinion, and in light of our direct experience, we have found that the mixed flows of refugees and economic migrants have brought serious challenges in the successful fulfillment of the aims of UNHCR and our own national policies in the field of migration and asylum. The permanent movements of populations at the regional and global level make the identification of real asylum seekers more difficult than ever. We therefore welcome the strategic cooperation between UNHCR and IOM which we consider to be quite timely and we are ready to support the new procedures and a better coordination between the two organizations.

We also welcome the current and considered partnerships by UNHCR with other international organizations, as a crucial ingredient for a successful fulfilment of the organization’s tasks. Thus, just as the High Commissioner mentioned in his statement yesterday, UNHCR shall consolidate not only the humanitarian side of its mandate but also the development and post-conflict stabilization dimension.

As far the conclusion of the Global Consultation Process is concerned, by the adoption of the Agenda for Protection, we welcome this advancement in the international debate on the protection of refugees. It is the result of our common efforts and it provides a general list of necessary improvements at the legal and practical levels, beneficial and supportive for the general activity of the UNHCR. But the importance of its application is the big challenge in front of us in the near future. Setting priorities among these needs and the application of the principles of burden sharing and durable solutions shall be the major tasks of the proposed forum on international protection. Romania is firmly committed to bringing its own support and contribution to this follow-up process.

Mr. Chairman,

The tireless efforts by people working to help refugees, their courage and abnegation need be further and better supported. The delegation of Romania wishes to address High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers and his team at the UNHCR our full respect and appreciation for the work they have accomplished thus far, as well as for meeting the complex challenges lying ahead. Throughout this process, Romania stands ready to lend its support and contribution.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

Back to statements