UNHCR launches resettlement of refugees in Chad to the United States

UNHCR begins a programme to resettle 1,800 refugees in Chad to the United States, with a first group of 11 flying out of N’Djamena at the weekend.

A refugee family from Darfur and their makeshift shelter in eastern Chad. The United States will accept hundreds of the most vulnerable for resettlement.  © UNHCR/H.Caux

N'DJAMENA, Chad, June 23 - The UN refugee agency has begun a pilot programme to resettle 1,800 refugees in Chad to the United States, with a first group of 11 from several countries flying out of N'Djamena at the weekend.

The group that left on Sunday included seven urban refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), three urban Sudanese refugees and one person from the Central African Republic (CAR) who had been living in Dosseye camp in southern Chad. They will fly to New York and later be resettled in the states of Kentucky, Texas, Iowa and Utah.

UNHCR plans to identify a total 1,800 cases for possible resettlement in the United States this year. Most of them are expected to be Sudanese refugees from Darfur living in the 12 refugee camps that UNHCR manages in eastern Chad. These camps house some 250,000 refugees from Darfur, some 60 percent of them women and children.

A further 70,000 refugees from the Central African Republic live in five camps in the south of the country. The next group earmarked for resettlement is expected to depart N'Djamena in early July and will mainly consist of Darfuri refugees. "There are serious protection cases," said Michele Manca di Nissa, UNHCR's deputy representative for protection in Chad.

The United States is the first country to agree to resettle vulnerable refugees from Chad. Some 20 countries around the world accept refugees referred to them for resettlement by UNHCR. This solution is only considered for refugees who cannot return home and are unable to remain in their host country. All those resettled do so voluntarily.

It is a meticulous process that usually takes 7-9 months per case. Potential resettlement cases are identified by UNHCR protection officers in the field and the refugees undergo several interviews.

UNHCR staff are trained in anti-fraud measures to avoid selecting refugees who are not eligible and refugees are counselled until the day of their departure on their rights and obligations in their new country.