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First resettled refugees arrive in Portugal under new scheme

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First resettled refugees arrive in Portugal under new scheme

19 December 2018
Portugal. Refugees, arrival at Lisbon Airport
Refugees from Syria and South Sudan arrive in Lisbon, Portugal, after a flight from Egypt.

GENEVA / LISBON, 19 December 2018 – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomed the arrival this week in Lisbon of six refugee families originally from Syria and South Sudan.

The 33 people, who landed in the Portuguese capital on Monday and today, are the first of 1,010 refugees whom Portugal pledged to admit from Turkey and Egypt by October 2019 in the framework of the current EU resettlement programme.

It will be the most ambitious resettlement programme carried out in Portugal to date and demonstrates the country’s strong commitment to refugee protection. Under previous programmes, some 30-45 individuals were resettled each year, increasing to approximately 180 over a two-year period between 2016 and 2017. In addition, Portugal accepted some 1,500 asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece between 2015 and 2017 under an EU relocation programme. 

“These refugees have found a durable solution to their plight and will now be able to rebuild their lives,” said UNHCR’s Director of the Bureau for Europe, Pascale Moreau.

Municipal authorities and NGOs throughout Portugal will support the refugees, who will be offered initial support with housing and basic needs while they learn the Portuguese language and pursue employment. The refugees will have access to healthcare and education, as well as professional and vocational training.

UNHCR thanks the government of Portugal for making resettlement an effective, durable solution for these families whose lives have been convulsed by violence and persecution, as well as all the NGOs and municipal authorities involved in welcoming them and providing them with the care they need.

“Today’s arrivals are a concrete gesture of solidarity by Portugal in providing refugee resettlement places that are so badly needed,” added Moreau. In 2017, for every 21 refugees in need of resettlement globally, only one departed to a resettlement state.

Expanded resettlement and complementary safe and legal pathways are among the ways communities around the world can help share responsibility for refugees at a time of record forced displacement – an idea central to the Global Compact on Refugees, validated this week at the General Assembly.

UNHCR implements resettlement programmes in more than 65 countries of asylum worldwide and estimates that 1.4 million refugees will need resettlement in 2019 globally, a 17% increase from 2018.

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