Press Releases

    SG/SM/8279
    REF/1173
    21 June 2002

    Secretary-General Pays Tribute to Winners of 2002 Nansen Refugee Award for Rescue of 438 Boat People in Indian Ocean

    NEW YORK, 20 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Nansen Refugee Award Ceremony in Oslo today, delivered by Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees:

    I am pleased to join you in paying tribute to Captain Arne F. Rinnan, the Crew of the M/V "Tampa", and Wilh. Wilhelmsen ASA as the recipients of the Nansen Refugee Award for 2002.

    Each year, the Nansen Refugee Award is given to an individual who carries forward the compassionate tradition of Fridtjof Nansen, the Norwegian explorer, diplomat, humanitarian and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, who, in the early decades of the twentieth century, helped millions of desperate people find refuge from tyranny, famine and war. His efforts helped lay the groundwork for the establishment of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

    Captain Rinnan and his crew, as well as the owner of the "Tampa", demonstrated great personal courage and a unique degree of commitment to refugee protection. Despite the risk of substantial delays and a large financial loss, the ship -- unequipped to carry a large number of passengers -- altered its course to rescue 438 boat people in the Indian Ocean. By doing so, the staff of Wilh. Wilhelmsen ASA demonstrated a profound humanitarian spirit in assisting asylum seekers to reach safety despite the risks involved.

    Today, on World Refugee Day, we recognize the strong commitment of the Tampa team. I congratulate the team's noble efforts and wish all of you the best for a successful ceremony.

    * *** *