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					                                                                                     FMR IRAQ specIAl Issue                    21

                                                                                                  by Vincent Cochetel

Both a durable solution and an instrument of protection,                             of non-discrimination and regional
                                                                                     consistency, giving no preference
resettlement is available to only a tiny fraction of the world’s                     to ethnicity, sect or religion.
refugees. uNHcR has launched a large-scale resettlement
programme for Iraqi refugees but places are limited and it                           UNHCR is particularly concerned
                                                                                     about some 15,000 Palestinian
is the degree of ‘vulnerability’ that will ultimately determine                      refugees concentrated in Baghdad
prospects for resettlement.                                                          who since 2003 have been targets
                                                                                     of attacks and persecution.2 Many
In December 2006, UNHCR’s revised          The programme is on target. As            Palestinian refugees in Iraq have
Return Advisory and Position on            of 18 May, 5,894 Iraqi refugees           lived there since 1948 and consider
International Protection Needs of          had been formally submitted for           Iraq to be their homeland but have
Iraqis outside Iraq1 cited extreme         resettlement. Referrals include 1,599     been left threatened, stateless and
tension in central and southern Iraq       from Ankara, 1,593 from Damascus,         largely neglected by the international
with a high probability of continued       2,037 from Amman, 523 from Beirut,        community. UNHCR has received
hostilities and increased insecurity. It   93 from Cairo and 49 from Teheran.        credible reports that some 600
advised that “no Iraqi from Southern       Resettlement statistics indicate a        Palestinians have been murdered in
or Central Iraq should be forcibly         steady increase in referrals this year,   Baghdad since 2003. Of particular
returned until such time as there          at an average rate of more than 700       concern are the 826 Palestinians
is substantial improvement in the          referrals per week. This is a striking    stranded in Al Waleed refugee camp,
security and human rights situation in     increase when compared to the             350 in Al Tanf near the Syrian-Iraqi
the country.” Voluntary repatriation       resettlement of a total of 3,183 Iraqi    border, 300 in El Hol in Syria and
is not considered a viable option at       refugees in the previous four years.      97 at the Ruweyshid refugee camp
this time. Given the deterioration                                                   in Jordan. In close cooperation with
of the security environment in Iraq        All Iraqis from central and southern      the United Nations Relief and Works
(particularly since the Samarah            Iraq, with the exception of those who     Agency for Palestinian Refugees in
bombings in February 2006), the            raise serious exclusion concerns at the   the Near East (UNRWA), UNHCR has
difficult protection environment in        time of registration, are recognised      been actively seeking solutions for
some countries of first asylum and         as refugees by UNHCR on a prima           these vulnerable Palestinian refugees.
the fact that the prospect for durable     facie basis and countries have been       With restricted humanitarian
solutions appeared remote or absent,       requested to observe flexibility in       assistance, health and social services,
UNHCR strongly encouraged states           their resettlement determinations.        there is an urgent need to relocate
to consider resettling vulnerable          Eleven distinct eligibility criteria      the Palestinian refugees stranded at
Iraqi refugees and stateless persons       for resettlement referrals have been      these border refugee camps, unless
stranded in Jordan and Syria.              established. These include victims of     other solutions become available
                                           severe trauma, detention, abduction       to them. These groups have been
Resettlement is a mechanism for            in the country of origin; membership      characterised as the most vulnerable.
refugee protection, a durable              of minority groups targeted in the
solution and an important tool             country of origin; women at risk in       The International Conference on
of burden sharing. Resettlement            country of asylum; unaccompanied          Addressing the Humanitarian
is explored when refugees are              or separated minors; dependants           Needs of Refugees and Internally
unable to repatriate voluntarily and       in resettlement countries; older          Displaced Persons inside Iraq and
their life, liberty, safety, health or     persons at risk; medical cases            in Neighbouring Countries held
fundamental human rights are at            without treatment in country of           on 17-18 April 2007 in Geneva
risk in their country of origin or in      asylum; high-profile cases and/or         was organised with the objective
the country where they have sought         family members; Iraqis who have           of sensitising the international
refuge. Resettlement in no way             fled because of their associations        community to the humanitarian
jeopardises the right to repatriate        with specific governmental, military      crisis in Iraq and further afield as
voluntarily when conditions improve.       or intergovernmental groups; and          well as promoting concrete actions
Given the absence of conditions for        stateless persons and those of in         and commitments to address these
voluntary repatriation to Iraq and         risk of immediate refoulement. This       needs. Amongst these commitments
the inability of host countries to         time-consuming, labour-intensive          were improving prospects for durable
consider local integration, UNHCR          process involves registration and         solutions and increasing resettlement
is planning to submit 20,000 Iraqis        initial screening followed by a one-      opportunities for the most vulnerable
for resettlement by 31 December            on-one interview. The resettlement        groups. According to the UN High
2007. Of this number, 7,000 will be        programme is based on individual,         Commissioner for Refugees, António
submitted to the USA by 30 June 2007.      rather than group, determination and      Guterres, “resettlement to third
                                           observes UNHCR’s key principles           countries is only an answer for the
22   FMR IRAQ specIAl Issue

     most vulnerable. Obviously, the           refugee population. Nevertheless,          UNHCR will also continue to
     best solution for the overwhelming        in the context of Iraq, resettlement       promote a constructive dialogue with
     majority of Iraqi refugees will be        will remain a significant option in        host countries, resettlement countries
     their voluntary return in safety and      protecting women-at-risk and in            and NGO partners, on the imperative
     dignity – once conditions allow.”         addressing specific vulnerabilities of     to protect and assist all Iraqi
                                               a medical or social nature that cannot     refugees abroad and to mobilise the
     No country is legally obliged to          be addressed effectively in countries      necessary humanitarian assistance.
     resettle refugees. UNHCR therefore        of asylum in the region. Since many
     commends resettlement countries, in       refugees are not likely to repatriate to   Vincent Cochetel (cochetel@unhcr.
     particular Australia, Canada, Finland,    Iraq in the mid or long term, given the    org) is Head of Resettlement
     the Netherlands, New Zealand,             traumatic events they experienced in       Service, DIPS Office of the Director
     Norway, Sweden and the USA, which         their country, UNHCR will endeavour        at UNHCR headquarters.
     are considering or have formally          to seek multi-year commitment from
     agreed to resettle vulnerable Iraqis.     resettlement countries to protect
                                                                                          2. See Gabriela Wengert and Michelle Alfaro, ‘Can
                                               vulnerable refugees and to assist host     Palestinian refugees in Iraq find protection?’, FMR26
     UNHCR recognises that 20,000              countries (in particular Syria, Jordan
     resettlement referrals only amount to     and Turkey) in providing them with
     a small proportion of the greater Iraqi   a durable solution in third countries.