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Published:January 13th, 2011 10:55 EST
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UN Refugee Chief Visits Yemen

By SOP newswire3

13 January 2011 " The United Nations refugee chief arrived in Yemen today along with the European Union`s top humanitarian official to assess assistance to civilians displaced by conflict in the country`s north, as well as challenges posed by the continuing influx of refugees on its shores.

During their three-day joint visit, High Commissioner António Guterres and the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva, will travel to the north, where they will press for greater humanitarian access to those affected by recurring fighting between Government forces and Al-Houthi rebels.

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Despite the February 2010 ceasefire signed between the Government and the rebels, nearly 300,000 civilians forced to flee their homes by successive conflicts since 2004 remain displaced.

The two officials plan to meet with displaced Yemeni civilians as well as those who have returned home, according to a news release issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The joint mission also reflects international recognition and support for Yemen`s policy of granting refugee status on arrival to Somalis fleeing violence and persecution in their homeland, UNHCR pointed out.

There are more than 170,000 registered Somali refugees in Yemen, of which some 16,000 arrived last year alone, often after making a perilous voyage across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

While in Yemen, Mr. Guterres and Ms. Georgieva will meet with top-ranking Government officials and representatives of UN agencies and partner non-governmental organisations.