UNHCR welcomes resumption of Belgium resettlement programme

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 4 September 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

On Wednesday September 2nd, 36 Iraqi refugees were resettled to Belgium from Syria and Jordan. Their arrival marks the resumption of resettlement by Belgium, which was actively involved in resettlement until the mid 1990s.

The decision to resume resettlement was taken earlier this year by the Federal government, following a Conclusion adopted by the Council of the European Union on 27 November 2008 which encouraged the resettlement of up to 10,000 Iraqi refugees in EU Member States.

This first group comprised women alone and some single mothers with their children. Later this month, 11 Palestinian refugees from the no-man's land refugee camp located at the Al Tanf border between Syria and Iraq will be welcomed for resettlement.

All the resettled refugees will receive refugee status in Belgium. Upon arrival they will be taken to Federal reception centres where they will receive cultural orientation and support. Once private homes have been identified, the refugees will move from the reception centres. NGOs have offered to help them to settle in their new communities.

UNHCR welcomes this resumption of resettlement, which plays a critical role in the system of international protection for refugees. On a global level, there is still a huge gap between resettlement needs and resettlement places. There is thus considerable scope for expanding resettlement in the European Union.