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Resettlement to Germany of Iraqi refugees in Syria gets under way

News Stories, 19 March 2009

HANOVER, Germany, March 19 (UNHCR) A group of 122 vulnerable Iraqi refugees flew on Thursday from Syria to northern Germany as a government programme to resettle 2,500 Iraqis officially got under way. Last week, a family of three were flown earlier than planned to Stuttgart from Jordan because their infant son needed urgent medical attention.

The group, including women and children, arrived in the northern city of Hanover early afternoon Thursday on a chartered Airbus from the Syrian capital, Damascus.

They were immediately whisked away by bus to the nearby Friedland transit centre, where they will stay for about two weeks before leaving for their final destinations. Local Arabic speakers have been hired to act as interpreters, while trauma counsellors will also be available.

Germany's decision to take in Iraqi refugees currently living in Syria and Jordan is part of a decision by the European Union to accept 10,000 of the most vulnerable refugees for resettlement.

A total 2,000 are set to come to Germany from Syria and 500 from Jordan. Most have relatives in the country or other links with Germany, where they will have the legal right to find employment.

The refugees, who fled their country to escape persecution or conflict in the past three years and cannot return home for various reasons, were met on arrival by Interior Ministry State Secretary Peter Altmaier and local officials.

"Germany has set an important example to ensure that especially vulnerable Iraqi refugees can plan their future life in peace and safety. The resettlement of these refugees is a valuable contribution to international refugee protection," UNHCR Regional Representative Wilbert van Hövell said after their arrival. "The commitment and support received by the German authorities and civil society deserve our explicit appreciation," he added.

Germany, a long-time financial contributor to UNHCR, has received tens of thousands of refugees from around the world in recent decades. The government's decision to establish a programme for Iraqis from the region has been welcomed as a sign of burden-sharing. The names of those accepted for resettlement were forwarded to Germany by UNHCR.

Priority was given to refugees from persecuted minorities, vulnerable cases with specific medical needs, traumatized victims of persecution as well as female-headed households who have family in Germany.

Among those who left was a man who survived a kidnapping, a family targeted for their moderate religious views and a young mother who has been living alone in Syria for the past year after her husband was abducted and never heard of again. She will be reunited with her parents who are now living in Germany; they will help to take care of her young children.

UNHCR estimates that more than 60,000 Iraqi refugees need resettlement from Iraq's neighbouring countries, the majority in Syria and Jordan. Last year 17, 770 Iraqi refugees were resettled to third countries, mostly in the west. It is hoped a much larger number will be accepted and resettled this year.

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Resettlement

An alternative for those who cannot go home, made possible by UNHCR and governments.

UNHCR Resettlement Handbook and Country Chapters

July 2011 edition of the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Between February and October 2011, more than 1 million people crossed into Tunisia to escape conflict in Libya. Most were migrant workers who made their way home or were repatriated, but the arrivals included refugees and asylum-seekers who could not return home or live freely in Tunisia.

UNHCR has been trying to find solutions for these people, most of whom ended up in the Choucha Transit Camp near Tunisia's border with Libya. Resettlement remains the most viable solution for those registered as refugees at Choucha before a cut-off date of December 1, 2011.

As of late April, 14 countries had accepted 2,349 refugees for resettlement, 1,331 of whom have since left Tunisia. The rest are expected to leave Choucha later this year. Most have gone to Australia, Norway and the United States. But there are a more than 2,600 refugees and almost 140 asylum-seekers still in the camp. UNHCR continues to advocate with resettlement countries to find solutions for them.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As world concern grows over the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees, UNHCR staff are working around the clock to provide vital assistance in neighbouring countries. At the political level, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was due on Thursday (August 30) to address a closed UN Security Council session on Syria.

Large numbers have crossed into Lebanon to escape the violence in Syria. By the end of August, more than 53,000 Syrians across Lebanon had registered or received appointments to be registered. UNHCR's operations for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley resumed on August 28 after being briefly suspended due to insecurity.

Many of the refugees are staying with host families in some of the poorest areas of Lebanon or in public buildings, including schools. This is a concern as the school year starts soon. UNHCR is urgently looking for alternative shelter. The majority of the people looking for safety in Lebanon are from Homs, Aleppo and Daraa and more than half are aged under 18. As the conflict in Syria continues, the situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon remains precarious.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

By mid-September, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees had crossed the border into Turkey. UNHCR estimates that half of them are children, and many have seen their homes destroyed in the conflict before fleeing to the border and safety.

The Turkish authorities have responded by building well-organized refugee camps along southern Turkey's border with Syria. These have assisted 120,000 refugees since the crisis conflict erupted in Syria. There are currently 12 camps hosting 90,000 refugees, while four more are under construction. The government has spent approximately US$300 million to date, and it continues to manage the camps and provide food and medical services.

The UN refugee agency has provided the Turkish government with tents, blankets and kitchen sets for distribution to the refugees. UNHCR also provides advice and guidelines, while staff from the organization monitor voluntary repatriation of refugees.

Most of the refugees crossing into Turkey come from areas of northern Syria, including the city of Aleppo. Some initially stayed in schools or other public buildings, but they have since been moved into the camps, where families live in tents or container homes and all basic services are available.

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

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