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UN, Russia can work together to create living conditions for Syrian refugees — UNHCR

According to the UN official, many refugee camps are overcrowded, with severe living, healthcare and nutrition conditions
UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees George Okoth-Obbo NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images
UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees George Okoth-Obbo
© NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

MOSCOW, July 11. /TASS/. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been considering various spheres of cooperation with Russia regarding Syrian refugees, namely, creating living conditions for them, Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees George Okoth-Obbo said in an interview with TASS.

"We have many camps, many situations, which… are heavily overcrowded and there are very difficult living, nutrition and healthcare conditions. One of the most overcrowded in that respect is in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, where we have refugees from Myanmar," he said. "In many of these camps there are really very difficult conditions for the refugees, which we are working on very hard," Okoth-Obbo noted, adding that the Office could cooperate with the Russian Emergencies Ministry "in solving these, especially in Cox’s Bazar."

"We have many refugee situations, which we call protracted. Protracted means that refugees have been in exile for more than five years. But we also have situations when refugees have been in exile for a much longer period than that," he went on to say. In this regard, the UN official mentioned Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran who "have been in exile for forty years." "A lot of efforts have to be made to solve these situations, which created the displacement of people as refugees, so that people can stop being refugees and go back to their homes safely and securely, and in such a way that they can recover their life as productive citizens of their countries," Okoth-Obbo concluded.

"Syria is an example of what we can do together both in this country and globally," he went on. "What I mean by that is that Syria has a lot of displaced people, close to 6 million Syrians have been displaced either internally or externally." According to the high official, that is an example of where mechanisms for emergency response and other solutions could be worked out.

"There will be a lot of areas where we can work together to ensure that. For example, in providing living conditions for people whose homes have been destroyed," he added.

"We have been cooperating with EMERCOM [Russian Emergencies Ministry — TASS] since 1993. But what I came here for is to conclude a new agreement for enhanced cooperation. Why we have signed this agreement and what we expect it to do is to cover 70 million people in the world who have been displaced," the high official explained. "About 25 million of them are refugees, and we are responsible for ensuring that they are protected, assisted and helped."

"Our agreement with the EMERCOM implies cooperation in a way that EMERCOM could extend its incredible capacities that we are witnessing here to help us provide emergency response. We expect to hold further discussions to work out the details of the cooperation," the UN official added.

"But we expect that it will include aspects such as land and air assets, which EMERCOM has a lot of," he continued. "EMERCOM has a lot of experience and knowledge; we also expect to cooperate in training personnel. And we also expect that we will have exchange programs, including staff exchange ones. So, broadly speaking, that is the objective of the agreement we concluded with the [Russian] minister [of emergency situations]."

Good prospects

The assistant high commissioner stated that the prospects of cooperation between the UNHCR and Russia are "very good." "The Russian Federation is a big player, globally speaking. And globally speaking we, as I have said, have many emergencies. So, we expect that we will define many situations in which we can cooperate and help each other," he said.

"The main areas where we would like to collaborate with EMERCOM include supply and logistics chain," Okoth-Obbo noted. "And our experience since 1993 demonstrates that we can cooperate very well in this area."

"On our part, of course, on humanitarian, displacement work, protection work and finding solutions for people who have been displaced. But EMERCOM itself has a lot of professional, technical and scientific knowledge when it comes to emergency response. That is another area, where we expect that there will be a lot of mutual cooperation and benefits," the high-ranking UN official concluded.