Iraqi refugees leave Jordan, Syria in first resettlement to Germany

Briefing Notes, 20 March 2009

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 20 March 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The first group of Iraqi refugees destined for Germany from Syria and Jordan left yesterday on a specially chartered plane from Damascus. The 122 people were selected following a swift decision made by the German Interior Minister's conference in December 2008. 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.

Every family that was resettled yesterday had faced persecution in Iraq in the past three years. Among those who left were 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.

Germany was responding to a decision by the Council of the European Union on 27 November 2008 that encouraged the resettlement of up to 10,000 Iraqi refugees in 2009. The government is offering 2,500 places for Iraqi refugees 2,000 from Syria and 500 from Jordan. UNHCR very much appreciates the speed of the response by the German government; with this planeload of refugees departing only three months after the decision was made by the German Interior Ministers Conference on 5 December. Some countries can take years to resettle refugees.

This is the first time Germany has initiated such a programme since the early 1980s, when Vietnamese boat people were resettled. They are joining 15 other countries that have offered resettlement to Iraqi refugees since 2003. UNHCR supports a humanitarian resettlement programme which responds to the needs of the most vulnerable individuals.

Germany is providing a very positive example, which we hope will inspire other European countries to consider resettling Iraqi refugees during 2009. We estimate over 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.

There is huge pressure from the Iraqi refugee community for resettlement, as is seen every Tuesday morning when the UNHCR Damascus office conducts resettlement counselling sessions. For the past year, there have never been less than 2,000 refugees at these counselling days.

UNHCR hands over camp for internally displaced Iraqis: UNHCR has completed and handed over to Iraqi authorities a camp for internally displaced people at Bastasen, in Zharawa Sub-District, in the Kurdistan region. Establishment of the camp began in December. It was built to accommodate 45 displaced Iraqi families about 270 people who fled their homes in the insecure Iraq-Iran border region early last year. Two tents and a separate bathroom are allocated to each family in the camp, which covers an area of 8,280 square metres. A water system has also been installed.

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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

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and more than 2 million others have fled to nearby countries. While many people were displaced before 2003, increasing numbers of Iraqis are now fleeing escalating sectarian, ethnic and general violence. Since January 2006, UNHCR estimates that more than 800,000 Iraqis have been uprooted and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. UNHCR anticipates there will be approximately 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of 2007. The refugee agency and its partners have provided emergency assistance, shelter and legal aid to displaced Iraqis where security has allowed.

In January 2007, UNHCR launched an initial appeal for US$60 million to fund its Iraq programme. Despite security issues for humanitarian workers inside the country, UNHCR and partners hope to continue helping up to 250,000 of the most vulnerable internally displaced Iraqis and their host communities

Posted on 12 June 2007

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

After Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in Iraq in 2003, groups of refugees who had lived in the country for many years tried to leave the chaos and lawlessness that soon ensued. Hundreds of people started fleeing to the border with Jordan, including Palestinians in Baghdad and Iranian Kurds from the Al Tash refugee camp in central Iraq.

Aside from a few Palestinians with family connections inside the neighbouring country, the refugees were refused entry and free movement in Jordan. Thousands were soon stranded in the no-man's land between Iraq and Jordan or at the desert camp of Ruweished, located 60 kilometres inside Jordan.

Since 2003, Palestinians, Iranian Kurds, Iranians, Sudanese and Somalis have been living there and suffering the scorching heat and freezing winters of the Jordanian desert. UNHCR and its partners have provided housing and assistance and tried to find solutions – the agency has helped resettle more than 1,000 people in third countries. At the beginning of 2007, a total of 119 people – mostly Palestinians – remained in Ruweished camp without any immediate solution in sight.

Posted on 20 February 2007

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

Iraq: Uprooted and living in a warehousePlay video

Iraq: Uprooted and living in a warehouse

An Iraqi man who turned down resettlement to the U.S. in 2006 tells how it feels now to be a "refugee" in his own country, in limbo, hoping to restart life in another Iraqi city.
Iraq: Uprooted and living in a warehousePlay video

Iraq: Uprooted and living in a warehouse

An Iraqi man who turned down resettlement to the U.S. in 2006 tells how it feels now to be a "refugee" in his own country, in limbo, hoping to restart life in another Iraqi city.
Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat campPlay video

Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat camp

Concluding a visit to Iraq, UNHCR chief António Guterres met with Syrian refugees in Arbat camp in the Kurdistan region. Guterres noted the recent proliferation of humanitarian crises, but urged the international community not to forget about Syria, "the mega protracted crisis of our times."