BRASILIA (AFP) — A first group of 35 Palestinians who were forced to flee Iraq arrived Friday in Brazil where they will receive government and UN assistance to build their new lives, officials said.
The 35 are part of a group of 117 Palestinian-Iraqi refugees who are making their way to Brazil after fleeing Iraq and seeking shelter in neighboring Jordan following the fall of Saddam Hussein.
"The 35 who arrived Friday are part of a group that lived in the Ruwaished refugee camp in Jordan," said Luiz Paulo Barreto who heads the government's national refugee commission.
The others "will probably begin to arrive in October," he said.
They spent around three years at the refugee camp, according to Luis Varese, a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representative.
Varese also said authorities did not want to say yet exactly where the Palestinians would make their homes.
"You must understand that these people lost everything. They have suffered a lot, they are afraid and they want to keep a low profile," he said.
Brazil plans to give them identity papers so they will have the same status as Brazilian citizens. They will be enrolled in Portuguese classes and will receive monthly financial aid until they are able to support themselves, officials said.
An estimated 4.2 million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes due to violence and sectarian unrest, according to the UN refugee agency.
Neighbors Syria and Jordan have shouldered the brunt of the burden of Iraqis fleeing the country, with over 1.4 million in Syria and between 500,000-750,000 in Jordan, the UNHCR said.
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