UN chief announces 100,000 landmark in resettlement of Iraqi refugees

Press Releases, 18 June 2010

AL HASSAKEH UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, announced today a major landmark in resettlement of Iraqi refugees, with 100,000 people having been referred for resettlement from the Middle East to third countries since 2007. Guterres made the announcement during his visit to Syria, which according to government estimates, hosts over 1 million refugees, the majority from Iraq.

"100,000 submissions of Iraqi refugees is a tremendous achievement. Many have been living in limbo for years. This will increasingly be the case if states don't continue to welcome Iraqi refugees for resettlement," said Guterres.

Lengthy security checks and the time it has taken for state processing mechanisms to be established have led to considerable delays in the departure of refugees to their new homes. Of the 100,000 submissions of Iraqi refugees since 2007, the number of departures up to May 2010 was around 50 percent, or 52,173 individuals. In 2007 around 3,500 Iraqis departed for third countries from the region.

"I call on countries to facilitate the speedy departure of refugees they have accepted for resettlement," said Guterres.

Approximately 45 percent of Iraqi refugees submitted for resettlement live in Syria, totaling 43,223 individuals. The acceptance rate by resettlement countries of UNHCR's referrals currently stands at 80 percent of total submissions, of which the largest number, nearly 76 percent, have been accepted by the United States.

UNHCR's 2009 Global Trends report highlights the fact that Iraqis are the second largest refugee group in the world, with an estimated 1.8 million seeking refuge primarily in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey. Voluntary repatriation worldwide in 2009 was at its lowest point in twenty years, with around 251,500 returns, of which only 38,000 were Iraqi.

"The growing resilience of conflict results in a larger proportion of refugees who are unable to return to their homes," said Guterres, noting that major conflicts in Afghanistan, southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo show no signs of being resolved, while "conflicts that we had hoped were on their way to being resolved are stagnating."

The High Commissioner is in Syria to commemorate World Refugee Day on June 20. This is the first time that this global event is hosted in the Middle East. On June 18th at 15:00 GMT he will join an event hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington D.C. via a live video feed from Al Hassakeh, a Syrian province neighbouring Iraq. He will also link with China, Malaysia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador and UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

Highlights from World Refugee Day 2010 activities, including the live feed on 18th and 20th June, can be found at www.unhcr.org.

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Resettlement

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

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