Romania to set up evacuation transit centre for refugees

News Stories, 9 May 2008

© UNHCR
The signing ceremony in Bucharest. Vincent Cochetel, Deputy Director of UNHCR's Division of International Protection Services, is on the right.

BUCHAREST, Romania, May 9 (UNHCR) The Romanian government has agreed to set up a special evacuation transit centre for refugees in other countries facing acute danger. It will be the first of its kind in Europe.

Under an agreement signed in Bucharest on Thursday by Romanian Interior Minister Christian David and senior representatives of the UN refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the centre will provide a temporary haven for refugees pending final resettlement in a third country.

The new centre, to be located in the western Romanian city of Timisoara and able to accommodate up to 200 people, will shelter individuals or groups of people still facing acute danger in their country of first arrival and in need of immediate evacuation

Senior UNHCR officials warmly welcomed the development. "It's an extraordinary gesture for an EU [European Union] member state to make available sovereign territory to accommodate the most destitute refugees awaiting permanent resettlement in a third country," said Machiel Salomons, UNHCR's representative in Romania.

Once the facility is up and running, UNHCR will identify those persons in need of transit evacuation, provide them with refugee certificates and negotiate for their onwards resettlement. IOM will arrange the transportation of evacuees, their health screening and cultural orientation programmes.

Resettlement countries have pledged their support to this initiative, while UNHCR has called on donor governments to provide financial support.

The decision to build the evacuation transit centre comes almost three years after Romania gave more than 400 Uzbek refugees safe haven in Timisoara. Intensifying violence forced them to flee eastern Uzbekistan and seek shelter in Kyrgyzstan. The vast majority have since been resettled to third countries.

And in March 1999, Romania accepted some 4,000 refugees from Croatia and from Bosnia & Herzegovina who were subsequently resettled to the United States.