UN agency hails Belgium’s decision to accept Iraqi refugees

4 September 2009

The United Nations today welcomed the return of Belgium’s refugee resettlement programme marked by the transfer of some 36 Iraqis who were previously sheltered in Syria and Jordan.

This first group of Iraqi refugees to settle in Belgium included some single mothers and their children, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva.

Mr. Mahecic noted that later this month some 11 Palestinian refugees from the no-man’s land refugee camp located on the border between Syria and Iraq are also slated to be housed in Belgium.

European Union encouragement last November of its Member States to accommodate around 10,000 Iraqis forced to leave their homeland led to Belgium’s decision to restart its refugee resettlement programme after a break of more than a decade.

All those resettled in Belgium will be given refugee status and upon arrival taken to Federal reception centres to receive cultural orientation and support. Once private homes have been identified, the refugees will move from the reception centres.

Currently, there are still more than 1.5 million Iraqis living outside the country, mostly in Syria and Jordan, with a further 2 million others displaced within Iraq.

“On a global level, there is still a huge gap between resettlement needs and resettlement places,” the UNHCR spokesperson said, adding that there “is thus considerable scope for expanding resettlement in the European Union.”


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