PH’s history of opening its shores to refugees
I read Ceres Doyo’s column titled “Refugees” (Opinion, 4/30/15).
First of all, to Doyo, from the bottom of my heart, Maraming salamat po for taking an interest in the subject.
But perhaps, let me introduce myself first. I am the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees here in the Philippines, a country that I passionately love and discover every day as I travel extensively to the provinces, but more often off the “beaten track.”
Having researched quite extensively on the waves of refugees who landed on the shores of this beautiful country—the White Russians in 1920, the Spanish Republicans in 1939, the Jews in 1947 during President Manuel Quezon’s time, the second wave of White Russians in 1951 during President Elpidio Quirino’s time, the Iranians in 1979 , the Indochinese, close to half a million of them coming to or transiting through the Philippines from 1975 to 1992, the East Timorese in 1999, and now the individual cases who have come in search of much needed asylum from Congo, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Ukraine, Syria, etc. (19 different nationalities).
I would very much welcome the opportunity to meet with Doyo, to compare notes, to share data, to engage her in a dialogue and … to thank her personally for taking an interest in this topic. Having served quite extensively under so many latitudes for the past 34 years (32 of them with UNHCR), witnessing refugee crisis around the world, I have developed an interest in the issue of previous waves of refugees who arrived here in the Philippines and received asylum (when, as Doyo rightly pointed out, “no other country wanted them”), integrated and contributed to the Philippines.
There is a much legitimate reward to be awarded to the Philippines and yet the public does not know much about it. I also would like to brief Doyo on what we are doing to publicize the contribution of the Philippines, which introduced the notion of international protection in support of voiceless refugees.
I am hoping to meet Doyo soon; again, maraming salamat po.
—BERNARD KERBLAT, country representative, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 6/F, GC Corporate Plaza, 150 Legaspi St., Legaspi Village, Makati City
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