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Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on 14 January during an official two-day visit to Egypt. During the meeting, Mr. Grandi expressed UNHCR’s appreciation for Egypt’s hospitality towards refugees and asylum-seekers, more than 242,000  of whom are registered with UNHCR in Egypt.

The meeting covered several local, regional and global issues in light of Egypt’s role as Chair of the African Union (AU) in 2019, which has been declared by the AU as the “African Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention and the 10th anniversary of the Kampala Convention (formally, the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa), presenting important opportunities for the African continent to pursue a better future for forcibly displaced people.

Before leaving Cairo, the High Commissioner told the press: “UNHCR will observe these two anniversaries with a series of events throughout the year involving governments and partners to highlight the plight of the displaced in Africa.” Grandi added, “There is a perception that the refugee crisis is in Europe, America or Australia, while in fact 85% of the world’s forcibly displaced are in the Global South. This is an opportunity to remind the world that those uprooted as a result of conflict are in countries with limited resources.”

Discussions also covered Egypt’s efforts to tackle the irregular movement of migrants and refugees, and address the grave risks posed by human traffickers. These efforts call for stronger international solidarity and burden sharing to help Egypt manage the impact of a substantial refugee presence. The adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees aims at mobilizing not only humanitarian resources, but also development investments and long-term support to address the impact of refugee crises and find solutions.

Grandi added that UNHCR can be an advocate for Egypt, supporting the mobilization of international support to the country.

Later in the day, the High Commissioner met with the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Mr Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and discussed displacement crises in the region, including those arising from conflicts in Libya, Yemen, Syria and South Sudan.

Grandi also mentioned the upcoming conference in Brussels to mobilize aid for Syria. Speaking to the press, Mr Grandi said “We have already launched the Syria appeal and we will continue to push very strongly for support to the countries hosting Syrian refugees. Looking ahead, UNHCR, the League of Arab States, and Egypt fully agree that the return of refugees to Syria must be voluntary, and can take place when refugees decide to return. Meanwhile, large numbers will remain in neighbouring countries for an extended period. A few months ago, the one millionth Syrian was born as a refugee after 2011. This striking statistic shows the impact of exile on an entire population. We need to think of those children while they’re in exile; but also, when solutions come, we will need to support them going back.”

Grandi ended his two-day visit in Egypt with a meeting with members of the diplomatic community, thanking them for their generous support and highlighting the importance of more financial support and more resettlement opportunities for refugees in Egypt.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Information Centre – Cairo.