Syrian refugee to run with the Olympic torch in Brasilia

Brasília, 3 May 2016 (UNHCR) - Syrian refugee Hanan Dacka, 12, who has been living in Brazil for the past year, will run with the Olympic Torch today in Brasilia, Brazil. Followig discussion with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the Organizing Committee of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games selected Hanan to participate in the first day of the Torch relay on Brazilian soil. She will carry the torch on the Esplanade of Ministries, shortly after the Olympic Flame leaves the Presidential Palace around 10 o'clock in the morning UTC.

With the number of people displaced by conflict and persecution at its highest in the post-World War II era, Hanan's carrying of the Olympic torch through Brasilia is about solidarity with refugees everywhere. After being lit for the first time on 21 April in the Greek city of Olympia, birthplace of the Games, the flame was carried by Syrian refugee Ibrahim al-Hussein through Eleonas camp, the Athens centre housing some 1,500 asylum-seekers.

The Brazilian leg of the torch relay starts today, 3 May, and will last close to 90 days, concluding with the inauguration ceremony on 5 August in the Maracana Stadium, where the Olympic pyre will be lit.

Hanan, who arrived in Brazil in February 2015, lives with her family in São Paulo, in the south-east of the country. Fully integrated in Brazil, she goes to a school near her home, speaks fluent Portuguese and has many Brazilian friends.

Hanan and her family used to live in the city of Idlib, in north-eastern Syria. When war broke out, they fled the country and sought refuge in Jordan, where they spent two and a half years in Za'atari refugee camp. The family decided to leave Jordan and arrived in Brazil under the country's special humanitarian visa program, which enables survivors of the conflict to travel to Latin America's largest country and present an asylum country there. To date, around 8,000 of these special visas have been issued by the Brazilian authorities, including to Hanan and her family who were recognized as refugees and are now rebuilding their lives in Sao Paolo.

The war in Syria, which entered its sixth year in March, has generated 4.8 million refugees in neighboring countries and hundreds of thousands in Europe. Of the 8,700 refugees who have settled in Brazil, over 2000 are from Syria.

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