The UN refugee agency UNHCR welcomed the arrival of six refugee families originally from Syria and South Sudan in Lisbon
this week. The 33 people, who landed in the Portuguese capital on Monday and Friday, are the first of 1,010 refugees whom Portugal pledged to admit from Turkey and Egypt by October 2019, as part of the current EU resettlement program.
"It will be the most ambitious resettlement program carried out in Portugal to date and demonstrates the country’s strong commitment to refugee protection. Under previous programs, some 30 to 45 individuals were resettled each year, increasing to approximately 180 over a two-year period between 2016 and 2017. In addition, Portugal accepted some 1,500 asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece between 2015 and 2017 under an EU relocation program,'' a statement by the UN agency said.
Housing, employment and basic services support
"These refugees have found a durable solution to their plight and will now be able to rebuild their lives," said UNHCR’s Director of the Bureau for Europe, Pascale Moreau. Municipal authorities and NGOs throughout Portugal will support the refugees, who will be offered initial support with housing and basic needs while they learn the Portuguese language and pursue employment.
The refugees will have access to healthcare and education, as well as professional and vocational training.
Solidarity from Portugal
These "arrivals are a concrete gesture of solidarity by Portugal in providing refugee resettlement places that are so badly needed," Moreau said. In 2017, for every 21 refugees in need of resettlement globally, only one departed to a resettlement state.
UNHCR implements resettlement programs in more than 65 countries worldwide. The agency estimates that 1.4 million refugees will need resettlement globally in 2019, a 17 percent increase from 2018.
In a statement, UNHCR said that at a time of record forced displacement, communities around the world could help fight the problem by giving refugees safe and legal pathways to come to their country. This idea is central to the Global Compact on Refugees
, which was validated this week at the UN's General Assembly.