Kovler Fund pledges $100,000 for UNHCR’s Global Initiative on Protection at Sea

April 24, 2015

Grant is largest from US private sector for sea protection.

The Washington, DC-based Kovler Fund pledged $100,000 to UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – for concerted action to save lives and ensure that people traveling by sea who need international protection can receive it. The pledge comes days after a disastrous shipwreck claimed the lives of up to 850 migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

“It is horrendous and tragic that so many people are being forced to risk their lives every day in perilous sea crossings,” said the Kovler Fund’s Peter Kovler. “We must, as an international community, do more to protect these most vulnerable refugees and migrants.” Kovler added. “The Kovler Fund applauds UNHCR for its strong advocacy and for keeping human rights at the forefront of its work to address this crisis.”

During the first four months of 2015, over 36,000 asylum-seekers and migrants have arrived in southern Europe by boat with at least 1,700 deaths. In 2014, the number reached a new high of 219,000 boat crossings and 3,500 fatalities.

“We are grateful for the Kovler Fund’s leadership among the philanthropic community. The grant will support UNHCR’s efforts to prevent future tragedies at sea through training and capacity building of its staff, the shipping industry, government authorities and partners,” said Anne-Marie Grey, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of USA for UNHCR. “We hope the Fund’s generosity will inspire others to give.”

Last year, the Kovler Fund of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region became the nation’s first donor to UNHCR’s Global Initiative on Protection at Sea, which was launched in 2014 in response to surging numbers of people losing their lives by embarking on dangerous sea journeys around the globe to escape persecution, conflict, instability and poverty.

The Fund underwrote the publication of a sea rescue handbook, developed by UNHCR in collaboration with the International Maritime Organization and the International Chamber of Shipping. The handbook provides guidance on the international maritime and refugee laws related to rescue at sea, disembarkation, burden sharing, stowaways, and interceptions at sea involving asylum-seekers, refugees or stateless persons.

Publication of the handbook was one of a series of UNHCR activities leading up to the High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges, held in Geneva last December and devoted to sea protection. It engaged delegations from 88 states, 52 NGOs, 13 intergovernmental organizations, as well as individual experts and academics, seafarers, and representatives of the international shipping industry, national coastguards and navies. The event focused on the themes of saving lives (search, rescue and disembarkation); providing safer options (comprehensive approaches to address the drivers of dangerous sea journeys); and international cooperation to share burdens and responsibilities.

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CONTACT: For more information or interviews, contact Jennifer Patterson, Director, Communications, at jpatterson@usaforunhcr.org or 202-644-7157.

About the Kovler Fund
The Kovler Fund is a family foundation that provides financial support for social services, higher education, health services and medical research, and cultural programs; it also supports youth and child welfare agencies and public interest and civic affairs groups.

About USA for UNHCR
USA for UNHCR helps and protects refugees and people displaced by violence, conflict and persecution. Supporting UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – and its partners, we provide life-saving essentials including shelter, water, food, safety and protection. Around the world, we help refugees survive, recover and build a better future. Established by concerned American citizens, USA for UNHCR is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization.