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UN Welcomes Nicaraguan Laws Protecting Refugees

UN Welcomes Nicaraguan Laws Protecting Refugees

5 June 2008 - After four years of collaboration between the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Nicaragua, the Central American nation's Parliament has unanimously passed a new law to support refugees, it was announced today.

The legislation details the need of legal counsel for asylum-seekers, in particular unaccompanied minors and vulnerable adults; the right of asylum-seekers and refugees to work and access state services; and the obligation of immigration officers, police and army to identify and quickly refer asylum-seekers to the country's eligibility procedure.

This "demonstrates how the refugee experience of a country can translate into a positive step forward in upholding refugees rights as human rights," said Marion Hoffman, UNHCR's regional representative, adding that the new legislation "is the expression of the Nicaraguan people to unite in their quest for protecting refugees."

In the 1980s and 1990s, Nicaragua - situated along a key migration route to the United States and Canada - granted asylum to many refugees from neighbouring countries, while more recently, people from Africa, Asia and other Western Hemisphere nations have sought asylum in the country.

Additionally, Nicaragua was itself a refugee-producing country in past decades.

"This law represents the spirit of the Nicaraguan people; it reflects our tradition of hospitality," said Salvador Talavera, a former refugee and current National Assembly member.

Recently, asylum-seekers from Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Somalia have arrived on Nicaraguan shores, and the country's refugee law will help officials identify and assist those in need of international protection.

ENDS

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