Chile becomes latest country to resettle Syrian refugees
Chile has become the newest country to be resettling Syrian refugees. Sixty-six Syrians (32 children, 16 women and 18 men) arrived there yesterday from Lebanon, as part of a refugee resettlement programme led by the Chilean government with the support of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
In Santiago the refugees were welcomed by the country’s president, Michelle Bachelet, as well as UNHCR’s regional representative, Michele Manca di Nissa, and others. They will be hosted in two different communities: Villa Alemana, some 100 kilometres northwest of the capital, and Macul in the central-eastern part of the Greater Santiago area.
“We congratulate Chile’s government and society for extending their hand in solidarity with Syrian refugees in need and for participating in the response of the international community to one of the greatest humanitarian crises since the Second World War”, stated UNHCR’s Manca di Nissa.
The adults and children will all receive intensive Spanish-language classes and help from psycho-social professionals of the Vicaría de Pastoral Social Caritas, the organization responsible for following up and helping them integrate. The children will attend local schools and kindergartens from March next year, while the adults will be helped to find employment in order to speed up their integration and ensure their and their families’ autonomy and self-sufficiency.
The municipalities of the host communities will also play key roles in facilitating the refugees’ access to basic care services and helping them feel at home. Chile’s Syrian community is also actively involved in supporting the project.
Chile’s Syrian resettlement programme aims to resettle 120 highly vulnerable Syrian refugees from Lebanon. The programme was announced at the 69th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2014 by President Michelle Bachelet, who declared that Chile would receive refugees from Syria as part of her government’s commitment to share the international community’s responsibility to respond to one of the world’s major humanitarian crises.
Together with the Government of Chile and the Vicaría de Pastoral Social Caritas, UNHCR forms part of the technical team that led the preparations for Chile’s resettlement programme. UNHCR is also supporting this programme through the Emerging Resettlement Countries Joint Support Mechanism (ERCM), a joint venture that aims to enhance resettlement activities undertaken by new and emerging resettlement countries including through harnessing the expertise of experienced resettlement countries and other actors. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) conducted pre-departure formalities, orientation and medical exams, and facilitated the travel of the refugees.
Chile currently hosts 1,736 recognized refugees (mostly from Colombia). In addition, since 1999, Chile has resettled 480 refugees, including Colombians, Palestinians and refugees from the former Yugoslavia. Some of the resettled refugees have already obtained Chilean nationality.