First OIC refugee conference to be held in Turkmenistan

May 10, 2012, Thursday/ 00:00:00/ GÖZDE NUR DONAT
Ashgabat is preparing to host the first Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) ministerial meeting on refugees on Friday, which would come up with a framework to address the issue of stateless people and asylum seekers in the Muslim world.

Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Iran, Sudan and Somalia, are hosting the highest number of refugees under the concern of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Turkey is also hosting around 25,000 Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their country. According to UNHCR statistics, the 57 member states of the OIC are hosting approximately 17,761,399 persons of concern to the UNHCR as of the end of 2010.

In terms of the severity of the problem refugees pose in the Muslim world, OIC Assistant Secretary-General Atta al-Mannan Bakhit, speaking to Today’s Zaman, stated that such a conference was necessary in order to offer a clear vision and strategy to deal with the problem. “The level of European and Latin American refugees is not so significant compared to the level of Muslim refugees in the world. We need to adopt our own strategy to address the problems of our own people,” Bakhit said.

Bakhit said that the mechanisms to be discussed at the conference would focus on improving the treatment of refugees by helping host countries deal with the economic and social difficulties they face as well as clearing the way for repatriation, or relocation to third countries if repatriation is not an option.

“The refugee issue in Muslim countries is a reality to be discussed in a humanitarian dimension and the Muslim world should coordinate efforts for that. The Muslim world should not only mull over political solutions in destabilized countries sending out refugees but address the issue of the refugee problem in their own countries,” Babar Baloch, a UNHCR spokesperson, told Today's Zaman.

The conference has been jointly organized by the OIC and the UNHCR. Bakhit claimed that when offering long-term solutions to the problem of refugees in the Muslim world the OIC must ensure that it is in harmony with international organizations such as the UNHCR.

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