• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

Resettlement to Germany of Iraqi refugees in Syria gets under way

News Stories, 19 March 2009

HANOVER, Germany, March 19 (UNHCR) A group of 122 vulnerable Iraqi refugees flew on Thursday from Syria to northern Germany as a government programme to resettle 2,500 Iraqis officially got under way. Last week, a family of three were flown earlier than planned to Stuttgart from Jordan because their infant son needed urgent medical attention.

The group, including women and children, arrived in the northern city of Hanover early afternoon Thursday on a chartered Airbus from the Syrian capital, Damascus.

They were immediately whisked away by bus to the nearby Friedland transit centre, where they will stay for about two weeks before leaving for their final destinations. Local Arabic speakers have been hired to act as interpreters, while trauma counsellors will also be available.

Germany's decision to take in Iraqi refugees currently living in Syria and Jordan is part of a decision by the European Union to accept 10,000 of the most vulnerable refugees for resettlement.

A total 2,000 are set to come to Germany from Syria and 500 from Jordan. Most have relatives in the country or other links with Germany, where they will have the legal right to find employment.

The refugees, who fled their country to escape persecution or conflict in the past three years and cannot return home for various reasons, were met on arrival by Interior Ministry State Secretary Peter Altmaier and local officials.

"Germany has set an important example to ensure that especially vulnerable Iraqi refugees can plan their future life in peace and safety. The resettlement of these refugees is a valuable contribution to international refugee protection," UNHCR Regional Representative Wilbert van Hövell said after their arrival. "The commitment and support received by the German authorities and civil society deserve our explicit appreciation," he added.

Germany, a long-time financial contributor to UNHCR, has received tens of thousands of refugees from around the world 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. The names of those accepted for resettlement were forwarded to Germany by UNHCR.

Priority was given to refugees from persecuted minorities, vulnerable cases with specific medical needs, traumatized victims of persecution as well as female-headed households who have family in Germany.

Among those who left was a man who survived a kidnapping, a family targeted for their moderate religious views and a young mother who has been living alone in Syria for the past year after her husband was abducted and never heard of again. She will be reunited with her parents who are now living in Germany; they will help to take care of her young children.

UNHCR estimates that more than 60,000 Iraqi refugees need resettlement from Iraq's neighbouring countries, the majority in Syria and Jordan. Last year 17, 770 Iraqi refugees were resettled to third countries, mostly in the west. It is hoped a much larger number will be accepted and resettled this year.




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


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

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Croatia; Destination UnknownPlay video

Croatia; Destination Unknown

Germany: Refugee arrivals in MunichPlay video

Germany: Refugee arrivals in Munich

On Sunday, 6 September 2015 thousands of refugees who crossed from Hungary into Austria arrived at Munich Central Station. After an initial medical check, the authorities and volunteers escorted them to regional trains heading north. Others boarded buses to spend their first nights in Germany in a reception facility in Bavaria.
Serbia: Overstretched BordersPlay video

Serbia: Overstretched Borders

As Hungary builds a fence on its border with Serbia, the situation at the border between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece is increasingly precarious. Refugees in Serbia on their way to Hungry fear the tighter measures and say they wouldn't have fled home had they not been forced to do it by the war.