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Iraq: Brazilian resettlement breakthrough for Palestinians in desert camp

Briefing notes

Iraq: Brazilian resettlement breakthrough for Palestinians in desert camp

3 July 2007 Also available in:

UNHCR is grateful for a generous offer by the Government of Brazil to resettle an estimated 100 Palestinian refugees who formerly lived in Iraq. Most of the Palestinians have been living in Ruwayshed inside Jordan - 60 km from the Iraq border - for the past four years. There, they 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. 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.

The Palestinians are the first group of refugees from outside Latin America to 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. The pilot offer of Brazil will provide a humanitarian solution for Palestinians who have been in the Jordanian camp since 2003.

The transfer of the Palestinians to Brazil has been scheduled for mid-September 2007 and will be conducted in three movements of some 30 people each. The elderly and families with children are expected to leave first. Before departing, the whole group will be extensively briefed, culturally sensitized and given Portuguese language lessons by Brazilian UNHCR staff presently working in Jordan. Language and orientation classes will continue for up to 12 months after arrival in Brazil. The group will also be medically checked and receive yellow-fever vaccinations.

In the meantime, the UNHCR office in Brazil is preparing for the arrival of the Palestinians, by hiring bilingual (Arabic-Portuguese) staff for our partner organisations. The staff will be trained in Palestinian traditions and culture and will focus on ensuring the smooth integration of the Palestinians into Brazilian society.

An estimated 22 Palestinian families will be settled in São Paulo state, while 18 families will go to Rio Grande do Sul, in the south-east and southern regions of Brazil. Unaccompanied older refugees will be settled in a home for the elderly where medical treatment is to be provided.

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 is being established 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.

Meanwhile, you'll recall that UNHCR appealed last week for the medical evacuation of at least 12 Palestinians - mostly young children - with serious medical problems from the Iraqi-Syria border and from Baghdad. We have now received positive indications from two European countries and hope that they will speed up their decision in order to save their lives before it is too late.

More than 1,450 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. UNHCR repeats its call to the international community to help these Palestinians who - unlike Iraqis fleeing violence and persecution - are not allowed into any country and have nowhere else to go inside Iraq.