First group of Syrian refugees flies to Germany for temporary relocation

News Stories, 11 September 2013

© UNHCR/R. Brunnert
Officials greet the refugees as they disembark from the aircraft that brought them from Beirut.

HANOVER, Germany, September 11 (UNHCR) A first group of 107 highly vulnerable Syrian refugees arrived by plane in the northern German city of Hanover today from Lebanon under a special humanitarian programme announced by the German government earlier this year.

"It is good to be here in a safe area," said one refugee on arrival in Hanover, who referred to himself as William. "It was a horrible time waiting for help and protection," he added.

The refugees, who had fled to Lebanon to escape the escalating fighting that erupted in Syria in March 2011, were taken from Hanover airport to an accommodation centre in Friedland, Lower Saxony, where they will stay for 14 days. The refugees will be offered cultural orientation courses basic language training and basic information on Germany, including the school and health systems, as well as help in interacting with the local authorities.

At the end of the two week period, the refugees will leave for locations across Germany. They will live in small centres or apartments and will have full access to medical, educational and other social services. During their stay, the refugees will have the right to work.

Under Germany's Humanitarian Assistance Programme, announced in March, the refugees will be issued with a permit to stay for two years, with the option to extend if the situation in Syria remains unchanged.

Michael Lindenbauer, UNHCR's representative in Germany, praised the German government for its humanitarian initiative. "Germany is the first country in Europe to implement a humanitarian admissions programme for Syrian refugees with special needs," he noted, while adding: "The broad consensus reached in politics and society to support this initiative is exemplary."

The programme provides for up to 5,000 places for Syrian refugees, and as such is the biggest relocation programme in existence for the most vulnerable victims of the Syria crisis. "UNHCR teams in the Syria region are currently preparing additional referrals for this programme, which we expect to be fully subscribed by the end of 2013," UNHCR's chief spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, told journalists in Geneva. "The International Organization for Migration is involved with us in organizing travel, pre-medical checks, and other support," she added.

Resettlement of refugees, whether formal resettlement or expedited relocation as is the case with Germany's Humanitarian Admissions Programme is a vital and potentially life-saving tool for helping particularly vulnerable refugees. Those resettled may be women and girls at risk, people with serious medical conditions, survivors of torture or others with special needs.

UNHCR announced in June of this year, in its 2013 Syria Regional Response Plan, that it was seeking 10,000 places for humanitarian admission and 2,000 places for resettlement of Syrians in acute need. Since then Germany and Austria have committed places for humanitarian admission (5,000 and 500 respectively) whereas a number of other countries have come forward with offers of resettlement places.

These include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Together these countries have pledged more than 1,650 resettlement places, 960 of which are for 2013. The United States of America has indicated that it is willing to consider an additional unspecified number of cases.

Fleming said UNHCR urged states to come forward with further offers of resettlement or relocation. "In particular, and because of the growing size of the Syria refugee population in countries neighbouring Syria, we hope to see countries offering places outside their current annual quotas and allowing for expedited processing. This would help meet the needs of highly vulnerable Syrians, and it would ensure that resettlement opportunities remain available for highly vulnerable refugees from other countries," she said.

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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

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency has named the British coordinator of a UN-run mine clearance programme in southern Lebanon and his civilian staff, including almost 1,000 Lebanese mine clearers, as the winners of the 2008 Nansen Refugee Award.

Christopher Clark, a former officer with the British armed forces, became manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon (UNMACC-SL) n 2003. His teams have detected and destroyed tons of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and tens of thousands of mines. This includes almost 145,000 submunitions (bomblets from cluster-bombs) found in southern Lebanon since the five-week war of mid-2006.

Their work helped enable the return home of almost 1 million Lebanese uprooted by the conflict. But there has been a cost – 13 mine clearers have been killed, while a further 38 have suffered cluster-bomb injuries since 2006. Southern Lebanon is once more thriving with life and industry, while the process of reconstruction continues apace thanks, in large part, to the work of the 2008 Nansen Award winners.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

UNHCR started distributing emergency relief aid in devastated southern Lebanese villages in the second half of August. Items such as tents, plastic sheeting and blankets are being distributed to the most vulnerable. UNHCR supplies are being taken from stockpiles in Beirut, Sidon and Tyre and continue to arrive in Lebanon by air, sea and road.

Although 90 percent of the displaced returned within days of the August 14 ceasefire, many Lebanese have been unable to move back into their homes and have been staying with family or in shelters, while a few thousand have remained in Syria.

Since the crisis began in mid-July, UNHCR has moved 1,553 tons of supplies into Syria and Lebanon for the victims of the fighting. That has included nearly 15,000 tents, 154,510 blankets, 53,633 mattresses and 13,474 kitchen sets. The refugee agency has imported five trucks and 15 more are en route.

Posted on 29 August 2006

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

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