Ruwayshed Palestinians arrive in Brazil today

Briefing Notes, 21 September 2007

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 21 September 2007, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

This morning, 35 Palestinians who have been living for four years in the isolated Ruwayshed desert refugee camp in Jordan, are expected to arrive at the international airport in São Paulo, Brazil. They are the first group of some 100 Palestinians for whom a solution has been found in Brazil.

They left the camp yesterday, an emotional moment for many who in recent years had nearly given up hope for a normal life. The Palestinians, who had fled Iraq, have faced extremely harsh conditions in a dusty and scorpion-infested desert camp with nowhere to go. In recent years UNHCR has repeatedly appealed for a humane solution for this group. Jordan already shelters large numbers of Palestinians and had wanted other countries to share the burden. Until this latest response from Brazil, only Canada and New Zealand which took 54 and 22 Palestinians respectively in recent years had come forward to help this desperate group.

Before departing, the whole group had been extensively briefed, culturally sensitized and given Portuguese language lessons by Brazilian UNHCR staff presently working in Jordan. In the meantime, the UNHCR office in Brazil has prepared for the arrival of the Palestinians, by hiring bilingual (Arabic-Portuguese) staff for our partner organisations. The staff has been trained in Palestinian traditions and culture and will focus on ensuring the smooth integration of the Palestinians into Brazilian society.

The first group will be followed over the next few weeks by another 70 Palestinian refugees from Ruwayshed. The Palestinians will be settled in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul state. All of the Palestinians will receive rented accommodation, furniture and material assistance for up to 24 months. Employment profiles are presently being analysed to ensure job opportunities for all, while a network of volunteers and local communities has been set up to provide moral support during their integration. All of the Palestinian children will initially be given the opportunity to attend classes in Portuguese, until the start of the next school year in March 2008, when they will be able to fully participate in school

UNHCR welcomes Brazil's humanitarian resettlement of the Palestinians and Jordan's help in hosting the group and permitting their departure. The Palestinians benefit from the 'solidarity resettlement programmes' which were proposed as one of the durable solutions for refugees in the 2004 Mexico Plan of Action. The plan, which was adopted by 20 Latin American countries, has so far only benefited refugees from the region mainly Colombians.

More than 1,750 Palestinians from Iraq remain stranded along the Iraq-Syria border in deplorable conditions. Another estimated 13,000 Palestinians continue to be targeted, harassed, threatened and killed in Baghdad.