CHISINAU, 20 June 2012 –In commemorating World Refugee Day 20th June today the people of the Republic of Moldova join the United Nations and people worldwide to honour the courage and perseverance of uprooted stateless people worldwide, people who experience and overcome human rights abuse and persecution to find safety in safe countries.
More than 2,200 persons are under the mandate of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Republic of Moldova, mainly stateless persons but also refugees from other former Soviet states, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The number of people seeking asylum so far this year in the Republic of Moldova has already surpassed the total number in all of 2011, mainly due to a significant influx of asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Syria.
Since establishing an office in the Republic of Moldova in 1997, over the last 15 years UNHCR has worked with the government and parliamentarians to ensure the country has the necessary laws and procedures to ensure refugees are treated in accordance with the 1951 Refugee Convention. Moldova was amongst the first states in the region to produce with UNHCR advice and support landmark laws on complementary protection, so that other categories of asylum seekers may become beneficiaries of humanitarian protection.
Earlier this year Moldova acceded to the two UN conventions on statelessness and is amongst the few countries in Europe to have a law on statelessness determination.
Next month Moldova’s new law on the integration of foreigners and refugees will take effect, under which the Bureau for Migration and Asylum of the Ministry of Internal Affairs will be responsible for coordination cross-ministerial efforts to ensure that refugees are effectively implemented, have access to housing, employment, education, health and other social services. As a member of UNHCR's supervisory Executive Committee since 2009, the Republic of Moldova is an important global guardian of refugee protection.
Important gaps remain to be addressed, as in the ten years since Moldova acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the country has not yet produced Convention Travel Documents which allow refugees and beneficiaries of humanitarian protection to travel abroad, but the government is committed to overcoming this matter alongside the new biometric passports for Moldovan citizens. Obtaining Moldovan citizenship also remains a long and difficult process, taking at least eight years, whereas other countries in the region only require three years of residence for refugee applicants. Also, all persons so far granted citizenship have had to resort to a court procedure to overcome various obstacles.
"UNHCR is grateful for Moldova's progress in a number of areas, but facilitating the granting of Moldovan citizenship and finally distributing travel documents would greatly benefit for refugees and further promote their integration," UNHCR's Kessler declared.
Refugees, representatives from government ministries, the diplomatic corps, news media, UN agencies and civil society groups will compete in a table tennis tournament on 23rd June. Members of the public are invited to watch the tournament from 10 am, at State University of Moldova Specialised Table Tennis Arena (6 Testimiteanu Street, behind MallDova), in Chisinau.
Events to commemorate World Refugee Day are also planned for Chisinau International Airport, as over 27th-28th June the airport’s Arrivals Hall will host UNHCR Moldova's "tent" and a display hundreds of mini-tents promoting refugee integration. With EU funding, since 2009 UNHCR has trained border authorities working at the airport and other international crossing points in good practices for handling asylum claims by persons seeking protection in Moldova.
UNHCR is almost entirely funded from voluntary contributions, so public awareness and support plays a vital role in UNHCR's work. One of the world's leading humanitarian agencies, UNHCR has twice been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (1954 and 1981) for its work assisting millions of the world’s refugees from persecution and war.
Globally, UNHCR is marking World Refugee Day 2012 by launching a new campaign aimed at building empathy towards refugees and understanding of the plight of forcedly displaced persons. UNHCR’s Special Envoy Angelina Jolie, several Goodwill Ambassadors and other celebrities have lent their voices to a new “dilemmas” campaign that encourages the public to contemplate the dilemmas faced by victims of conflict or persecution.
UNHCR has also developed a free smartphone “app,” a short role-playing game called “My Life as a Refugee”, which brings to life the refugee experience and highlights some of the life-changing decisions and consequences faced by millions of refugees worldwide. Built for iOS and Android and soon to come out for iPhone, “My Life as a Refugee”