Belgium restarts refugee resettlement program, accepts displaced Iraqis

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

Iraqi refugees in Syria. (Peter Balleis, S.J./Jesuit Refugee Service)

Iraqi refugees in Syria. (Peter Balleis, S.J./Jesuit Refugee Service)

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 program after a break of more than a decade.

Jesuit Refugee Service knows the situation of Iraqi refugees remains a crisis, one that calls for redoubled efforts to achieve a durable solution to their situation. Two million Iraqi refugees and three million internally displaced Iraqis add up to a vast displacement that will take years to resolve. It is important that within Iraq, immediate efforts focus on assisting the increasing number of internally displaced Iraqis to return to their homes. Reintegration programs established now can equally well benefit those returning from overseas, as their basic needs will be similar. Learn more here.

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.

“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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