First Iraqi family departs Jordan for resettlement in Germany

News Stories, 16 March 2009

© UNHCR/C.Payne
Passport to a new life. Germany will be accepting 2,500 Iraqis under its resettlement programme.

AMMAN, Jordan, March 16 (UNHCR) Germany's plans to resettle 2,500 Iraqi refugees got under way earlier this month when a young couple flew out of Jordan with their sickly son, who will receive urgent medical treatment in their new homeland.

The German decision to take in refugees currently resident in Jordan and Syria is part of a decision by the European Union to accept 10,000 of the most vulnerable refugees for resettlement. A total 500 refugees in Jordan will go to Germany and 2,000 from Syria the first flight from Damascus is expected later this week.

For Abu Salam* and his wife, resettlement had taken on added urgency because of the health of their 10-month-old son, who was born with a heart defect. The father, clutching a passport, could not hide his excitement as he prepared to board a plane at Amman's Queen Alia Airport last Wednesday.

The Iraqi couple were distraught when they found out about their son's condition and approached UNHCR's office in Amman for help. After a thorough screening, the UN refugee agency recommended they be resettled in Germany.

Salam said he could not speak German, but that did not bother him. "My number one priority right now is my son. All I can think about is him having the surgery and getting well," he stressed.

Germany, a long-time financial contributor to UNHCR, has resettled tens of thousands of refugees from South America, Asia and Europe in recent decades. The government's decision to establish a programme for Iraqis from the region has been welcomed as a sign of burden-sharing.

Since the beginning of this year, UNHCR's Amman office has given Germany the names of 330 people for resettlement consideration. This month, about 70 of these individuals are due to depart.

"The rapidity with which this resettlement programme has begun is a testament to the humanitarian determination of Germany to assist vulnerable Iraqis who need special assistance and protection," said Imran Riza, UNHCR's representative in Jordan. "We hope that similar deserving cases will soon find care and hope in Germany as well as other European countries."

Riza said that with this quota, "UNHCR is in a position to better address the needs of specific target groups such as minorities and those with particular vulnerabilities."

Jordan has played host to hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, showing great hospitality and allowing them access to public education and health services.

Some 53,000 Iraqis are currently registered with the UNHCR Jordan office, which has recommended resettlement for 17,000 people. More than 9,000 have been accepted by over a dozen countries.

Repatriation remains the ideal solution for Iraqi refugees. Though UNHCR is not promoting large-scale returns, the agency is providing assistance on a case-by-case basis to those wishing to return to Iraq. Since last September, some 320 people have returned through this programme from Jordan.

* Name changed for protection purposes

By Ma'aly Hazzaz and Ziad Ayad in Amman, Jordan




UNHCR country pages

Iraq Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Iraq.

Donate to this crisis

CAR Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Central African Republic.

Donate to this crisis


An alternative for those who cannot go home, made possible by UNHCR and governments.

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

Jordan: Mohammad's Struggle for SurvivalPlay video

Jordan: Mohammad's Struggle for Survival

Meet Mohammad, a Syrian refugee in Jordan who, without the legal right to work, struggles to support his family and ensure his children's future.
Germany: New Hope in KeilPlay video

Germany: New Hope in Keil

Teenage refugee Abdullah was resettled in Germany, where he was finally able to get the life-saving medical help he needed to treat a blood disorder.
UNHCR: Looking for Safe ShoresPlay video

UNHCR: Looking for Safe Shores

2014 has been a record year for movements by sea with desperate people take terrifying risks for the slimmest chance to reach safer lands.