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 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

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As world concern grows over the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees, UNHCR staff are working around the clock to provide vital assistance in neighbouring countries. At the political level, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was due on Thursday (August 30) to address a closed UN Security Council session on Syria.

Large numbers have crossed into Lebanon to escape the violence in Syria. By the end of August, more than 53,000 Syrians across Lebanon had registered or received appointments to be registered. UNHCR's operations for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley resumed on August 28 after being briefly suspended due to insecurity.

Many of the refugees are staying with host families in some of the poorest areas of Lebanon or in public buildings, including schools. This is a concern as the school year starts soon. UNHCR is urgently looking for alternative shelter. The majority of the people looking for safety in Lebanon are from Homs, Aleppo and Daraa and more than half are aged under 18. As the conflict in Syria continues, the situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon remains precarious.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

By mid-September, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees had crossed the border into Turkey. UNHCR estimates that half of them are children, and many have seen their homes destroyed in the conflict before fleeing to the border and safety.

The Turkish authorities have responded by building well-organized refugee camps along southern Turkey's border with Syria. These have assisted 120,000 refugees since the crisis conflict erupted in Syria. There are currently 12 camps hosting 90,000 refugees, while four more are under construction. The government has spent approximately US$300 million to date, and it continues to manage the camps and provide food and medical services.

The UN refugee agency has provided the Turkish government with tents, blankets and kitchen sets for distribution to the refugees. UNHCR also provides advice and guidelines, while staff from the organization monitor voluntary repatriation of refugees.

Most of the refugees crossing into Turkey come from areas of northern Syria, including the city of Aleppo. Some initially stayed in schools or other public buildings, but they have since been moved into the camps, where families live in tents or container homes and all basic services are available.

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

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