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Panama Urged to Grant Refugee Status to Columbians

UN Agency Urges Panama to Grant Refugee Status to Long-Resident Colombians

New York, Jun 24 2005 11:00AM

The United Nations refugee agency has called on the Panamanian government to grant refugee status to 831 Colombians who have been living in the country under a precarious temporary status for more than six years.

“Although the government promised in March 2004 to grant the Colombians permanent legal status and some preliminary steps have been taken in that direction, the formal change is still pending,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing today in Geneva.

Under the current classification of ‘temporary protection,’ the Colombians do not have the right to work or to move about freely.

“We believe that the current status of the 831 Colombians is not consistent with the U.N.'s 1951 treaty on refugees, nor general human rights principles,” Mr. Redmond said.

With hundreds of Colombians fleeing their country’s decades-old civil conflict, the agency announced in April that it would establish a permanent presence in Panama to improve its assistance.

ENDS

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