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UNHCR resettles some 200 African refugees from Mozambique to the USA

News Stories, 22 September 2005

© UNHCR/M.Loureiro
A group of refugees waiting to board Wednesday's resettlement flight from Maputo airport. By the end of September, some 200 will have departed for the United States on six separate flights.

MAPUTO, September 22 (UNHCR) Every few days the UN refugee agency watches another group of about 35 refugees who had fled to Mozambique to escape violence in other African countries board an airplane and fly off to start new lives in the United States.

By the end of September six groups, comprising some 200 individuals from a variety of African countries, will have left. These are refugees who had no prospect of either returning to their own countries or integrating into the local population inside Mozambique.

"The backgrounds of these refugees are rather diverse," said Lene Frendrup, a resettlement expert working for UNHCR, who is based in the town of Nampula where she works with refugees in Marratane Camp.

"But in general they have all been individually affected by genocide, war, ethnic problems usually very seriously and often with the result that many family members were killed or are missing."

They reflect the wide variety of refugees arriving in Mozambique, which itself once generated 1.7 million refugees fleeing its own civil war.

Between 13 and 20 September, four groups comprising 139 individuals flew off to a new life. Of these, 96 were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 30 were from Burundi, 12 from Rwanda and one from Uganda. They ranged from a six-month-old baby to people of pensionable age.

One more group was scheduled to depart from Mozambique by the end of this week and the final group will leave in the last week of September. All are heading to various states in the United States.

UNHCR staff in Mozambique made the preliminary identification of refugees in need of resettlement, concluding this was the only feasible solution to their refugee status. UNHCR's Regional Resettlement Hub in Nairobi then sent a team to assist in the detailed preparation of the cases.

The names of the refugees identified were submitted by the Nairobi office to US officials who make the final individual decisions. The actual transportation arrangements are handled by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

"Many have said it does not matter where they are going, if only if can be to a place with peace," said Frendrup. "For the families with children it is especially important for the parents that the children will have a chance to grow up in safe and peaceful surroundings, in a place where they can get a good education."

UNHCR has increasingly taken the initiative in identifying where resettlement is the best solution for refugees. After compiling a document early each year showing the needs and capacity for resettlement throughout the world, UNHCR discusses the programme in June with potential receiving countries.

This annual meeting provides an opportunity for UNHCR to advocate for certain refugee populations in need of resettlement. Governments in turn have a chance to express interest in the refugees identified by UNHCR or to propose alternative refugee populations.

By Jack Redden





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After decades of hospitality after World War II, as the global political climate changed and the number of people cared for by UNHCR swelled from around one million in 1951, to more than 27 million people in the mid-1990s, the welcome mat for refugees was largely withdrawn.

Voluntary repatriation has become both the preferred and only practical solution for today's refugees. In fact, the great majority of them choose to return to their former homes, though for those who cannot do so for various reasons, resettlement in countries like the United States and Australia, and local integration within regions where they first sought asylum, remain important options.

This gallery sees Rwandans returning home after the 1994 genocide; returnees to Kosovo receiving reintegration assistance; Guatemalans obtaining land titles in Mexico; and Afghans flocking home in 2003 after decades in exile.

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Peaceful days and a safe environment is probably more than these Palestinian and Sudanese refugees expected when they were stuck in a desert camp in Iraq. Now they are recovering at a special transit centre in the Romanian city of Timisoara while their applications for resettlement in a third country are processed.

Most people forced to flee their homes are escaping from violence or persecution, but some find themselves still in danger after arriving at their destination. UNHCR uses the centre in Romania to bring such people out of harm's way until they can be resettled.

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