UNHCR praises Philippines support for refugees

By Helen Flores

MANILA, Philippines — The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) lauded the signing of the interagency agreement on the protection of asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons in the Philippines.

The agreement, signed last Oct. 12, aims to streamline government services extended to asylum seekers, refugees, stateless persons and other persons of concern (POCs).

“In the absence of a national legislation on refugee protection, this agreement will serve as a legal instrument institutionalizing government services that POCs can access,” the UNHCR said in a statement on Friday.

The signing ceremony was the culmination of a series of planning and discussions of 16 government agencies, including the judiciary, which began in December 2015, to streamline government services extended to asylum seekers, refugees, stateless persons and other POCs.

Among the agencies that signed the agreement were the Department of Justice, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Education, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Commission on Higher Education, Public Attorney’s Office, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

UNHCR Philippines head of field office Michel Huyghe cited the ongoing efforts of the Philippine government to allow POCs to access services of the state.
The Philippines is a state party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

“The Philippines has a long history in extending support to refugees and asylum seekers,” the UNHCR said.

UNHCR is mandated to work with the state to protect and support refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons.

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