Ruwayshed Palestinians arrive in Brazil today

Briefing Notes, 21 September 2007

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 21 September 2007, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

This morning, 35 Palestinians who have been living for four years in the isolated Ruwayshed desert refugee camp in Jordan, are expected to arrive at the international airport in São Paulo, Brazil. They are the first group of some 100 Palestinians for whom a solution has been found in Brazil.

They left the camp yesterday, an emotional moment for many who in recent years had nearly given up hope for a normal life. The Palestinians, who had fled Iraq, have faced extremely harsh conditions in a dusty and scorpion-infested desert camp with nowhere to go. In recent years UNHCR has repeatedly appealed for a humane solution for this group. Jordan already shelters large numbers of Palestinians and had wanted other countries to share the burden. Until this latest response from Brazil, only Canada and New Zealand which took 54 and 22 Palestinians respectively in recent years had come forward to help this desperate group.

Before departing, the whole group had been extensively briefed, culturally sensitized and given Portuguese language lessons by Brazilian UNHCR staff presently working in Jordan. In the meantime, the UNHCR office in Brazil has prepared for the arrival of the Palestinians, by hiring bilingual (Arabic-Portuguese) staff for our partner organisations. The staff has been trained in Palestinian traditions and culture and will focus on ensuring the smooth integration of the Palestinians into Brazilian society.

The first group will be followed over the next few weeks by another 70 Palestinian refugees from Ruwayshed. The Palestinians will be settled in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul state. All of the Palestinians will receive rented accommodation, furniture and material assistance for up to 24 months. Employment profiles are presently being analysed to ensure job opportunities for all, while a network of volunteers and local communities has been set up to provide moral support during their integration. All of the Palestinian children will initially be given the opportunity to attend classes in Portuguese, until the start of the next school year in March 2008, when they will be able to fully participate in school

UNHCR welcomes Brazil's humanitarian resettlement of the Palestinians and Jordan's help in hosting the group and permitting their departure. The Palestinians benefit from the 'solidarity resettlement programmes' which were proposed as one of the durable solutions for refugees in the 2004 Mexico Plan of Action. The plan, which was adopted by 20 Latin American countries, has so far only benefited refugees from the region mainly Colombians.

More than 1,750 Palestinians from Iraq remain stranded along the Iraq-Syria border in deplorable conditions. Another estimated 13,000 Palestinians continue to be targeted, harassed, threatened and killed in Baghdad.

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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

Statelessness among Brazilian Expats

Irina was born in 1998 in Switzerland, daughter of a Brazilian mother and her Swiss boyfriend. Soon afterwards, her mother Denise went to the Brazilian Consulate in Geneva to get a passport for Irina. She was shocked when consular officials told her that under a 1994 amendment to the constitution, children born overseas to Brazilians could not automatically gain citizenship. To make matters worse,the new-born child could not get the nationality of her father at birth either. Irina was issued with temporary travel documents and her mother was told she would need to sort out the problem in Brazil.

In the end, it took Denise two years to get her daughter a Brazilian birth certificate, and even then it was not regarded as proof of nationality by the authorities. Denise turned for help to a group called Brasileirinhos Apátridas (Stateless Young Brazilians), which was lobbying for a constitutional amendment to guarantee nationality for children born overseas with at least one Brazilian parent.

In 2007, Brazil's National Congress approved a constitutional amendment that dropped the requirement of residence in Brazil for receiving citizenship. In addition to benefitting Irina, the law helped an estimated 200,000 children, who would have otherwise been left stateless and without many of thebasic rights that citizens enjoy. Today, children born abroad to Brazilian parents receive Brazilian nationality provided that they are registered with the Brazilian authorities, or they take up residence in Brazil and opt for Brazilian nationality.

"As a mother it was impossible to accept that my daughter wasn't considered Brazilian like me and her older brother, who was also born in Switzerland before the 1994 constitutional change," said Denise. "For me, the fact that my daughter would depend on a tourist visa to live in Brazil was an aberration."

Irina shares her mother's discomfort. "It's quite annoying when you feel you belong to a country and your parents only speak to you in that country's language, but you can't be recognized as a citizen of that country. It feels like they are stealing your childhood," the 12-year-old said.

Statelessness among Brazilian Expats

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003

This gallery highlights the history of UNHCR's efforts to help some of the world's most disenfranchised people to find a place called home, whether through repatriation, resettlement or local integration.

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.

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003

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.
Emergency Resettlement – One Family's Journey to a New LifePlay video

Emergency Resettlement – One Family's Journey to a New Life

After their family fled Syria, young brothers Mohamed and Youssef still were not safe. Unable to access medical treatment for serious heart and kidney conditions, they and the rest of their family were accepted for emergency resettlement to Norway.
A new life for refugees from BhutanPlay video

A new life for refugees from Bhutan

They fled to Nepal from Bhutan amid ethnic tensions in the early 1990s. Now, many of the slightly more than 100,000 refugees have been offered the possibility of resettlement to another country.