UN welcomes Brazil’s offer of humanitarian visas for Syrians fleeing conflict

An estimated 3 million Brazilians have Syrian ancestry, including members of this group in Sao Paulo. Photo: UNHCR/K. Fusaro

27 September 2013 – The United Nations refugee agency today welcomed Brazil’s announcement that it will provide special humanitarian visas for Syrians and other nationals affected by the conflict and who wish to seek refuge in the South American nation.

According to the announcement made this week by the National Committee for Refugees (CONARE), Brazil’s embassies in countries neighbouring Syria will be responsible for issuing travel visas for people wanting to go there.

At a press conference in Geneva, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that claims for asylum will need to be presented on arrival in Brazil. These special humanitarian visas will also be provided to family members living in countries neighbouring Syria. The decision will help expedite entry to Brazil and the resolution providing this special procedure is valid for two years.

“Brazil is the first country in the Americas region to adopt such an approach towards Syrian refugees,” Adrian Edwards told reporters.

He noted that an estimated 3 million Brazilians have Syrian ancestry, mainly from a wave of immigration that occurred at around the start of the 20th century. So far the number of refugees from the Syria crisis in Brazil has been small, with around 280 individuals having been recognized by CONARE.

“There are no pending asylum claims and Brazil has approved 100 per cent of the claims that have been presented,” said Mr. Edwards. “However, according to the Ministry of Justice, the number has been gradually increasing.”

Currently some 3,000 asylum-seekers and some 4,300 refugees are living in Brazil. Most are from Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria.

UNHCR has called on States to provide for humanitarian admissions of up to 10,000 refugees from Syria in 2013.

“Humanitarian admission is an expedited process that can provide an immediate solution for those in greatest need while a resettlement programme is in its initial stages of implementation,” Mr. Edwards explained. “It also allows for additional places outside of States’ annual resettlement quotas.”

To date, Germany has offered 5,000 places for the humanitarian admission of Syrian refugees from Lebanon, and Austria has offered 500. A number of other countries have come forward with offers of resettlement places. These include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

As of 10 September, these countries had pledged more than 1,650 resettlement places, 960 of which are for 2013. The United States has indicated that it is willing to consider an additional unspecified number of cases.

The fighting that began in March 2011 between the Syrian Government and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad has uprooted over 6 million people, 2 million of whom have sought refuge outside the country.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), Chaloka Beyani, has urged the international community not to lose sight of the plight of millions forced into mass displacement by gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Syria committed by all parties to the armed conflict.

“Amongst the most vulnerable of these populations are the estimated 4.25 million persons displaced within the country who are largely unprotected and without adequate shelter and humanitarian assistance will be at even greater risk with the coming of winter in the next few months,” Mr. Beyani warned in his presentation to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The expert added that patterns of displacement continue to be “massive,” voicing deep concern that entire families have been displaced multiple times due to the geographic expansion of the conflict and the shifting of frontlines.

Also in Geneva, the 47-member Human Rights Council today strongly condemned “the continued gross, systematic and widespread” violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities and affiliated militias, as well as any human rights abuses by armed opposition groups.

In a resolution adopted by a vote of 40 in favour to 1 against (Venezuela), with 6 abstentions, the Council also demanded that the Syrian authorities fully cooperate with the UN-mandated inquiry into human rights abuses in the country.

In addition, it strongly condemned all massacres in Syria, including most recently the massacre in the Al Ghouta region, as well as the use of chemical weapons. It also deplored the deteriorating humanitarian situation, and urged the international community to provide urgent financial support to enable the host countries to respond to the growing needs of Syrian refugees.


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