- Published in World
Uruguay officials will travel to Lebanon Friday to pick up the first group of Syrian refugees to resettle in the country, part of a humanitarian operation launched by President Jose “Pepe” Mujica.
The resettlement plan will involve bringing 16 families from Syria, some 120 people, fleeing the violence that erupted in their country in 2012. The first group of 40 will arrive in September and the rest are scheduled to come next year.
Mujica announced the resettlement plan in late April, and since then organizations have been working to create a safe space where the refugees will stay, receive healthcare, education and take Spanish classes.
Javier Miranda, the human rights director of the presidency of Uruguay, will travel to Beirut this week to interview the 16 refugee families who have been pre-selected by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Miranda admits that the number of refugees Uruguay is taking is a drop in the bucket compared to the thousands who have fled the violence in the country, but said that at least “For each refugee it is a 100 percent solution, and that is key.”
Authorities said that victims of torture, children and families with at least one adult able to work – particularly in agriculture – were given priority for resettlement.
Foreign Minister Luis Almagro said in a televised address last week that he hopes this will encourage other countries to take similar actions.
"The idea is that this will serve as first aid," said Almagro, who added that "we hope that it can be trigger other countries, depending on their conditions, they can also receive many of these people."
According to recent UNHCR numbers, there are 1.1 million registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, while another 32,929 await registration.
The UNHCR currently does not operate any camps in Lebanon, so many refugees have to pay for a tent in private camps that are operated on private property.
An independent poll shows that 66 percent of the Uruguayan public support the government initiative to take in Syrian refugees.
Uruguay’s president Jose Mujica thanked Cuba for its medical support over the past years, which included over 50 thousand free eye surgeries and for what he called a great lesson of ethics. Mujica congratulated 22 members of a Cuban brigade working in Uruguay and praised the support that the island gives to other countries of the world.
During a ceremony in a theater in the capital Montevideo, Mujica also thanked Cuba for having trained over 400 doctors for his country. He said, they are around here and they do not ask how much they will be paid or where they will have to go to offer their services; they go where they are needed, to the most remote areas, which were forgotten sometimes in this country, in order to take the people some hope.
Thanks Cubans for all you have given us, and particularly for this lesson of ethics, said Mujica amidst the applause of hundreds of senior citizens who were submitted to eye surgery.
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s administration has discretely notified Congress of its intention to transfer to Uruguay six prisoners from the U.S. base in Guantanamo, Cuba, a State Department source told Efe on Wednesday.