BEIRUT: Over 100 Syrian refugees left Lebanon Wednesday to be relocated in Germany as part of a temporary resettlement program.
One hundred and seven refugees gathered at the International Organization for Migration offices in the Beirut southern suburb of Jnah Wednesday morning and boarded three buses set to take them to Beirut’s international airport.
Thirty men, 40 women, 34 children and three infants, all selected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and approved by the German government, are part of a group of 4,000 vulnerable refugees who have been selected for a temporary two-year stay in Germany.
The group includes single women, families at risk, Syrians with close family ties in Germany, and those suffering from grave medical conditions. They were all assessed by the UNHCR according to their experiences in Syria and living situation in Lebanon and all were registered before April 2013, which was also a criterion.
Azad Sino is a refugee who hails from Syria’s second city of Aleppo, and is traveling to Germany with his wife and two children.
“We’re very excited to go,” he told The Daily Star.
Sino and his family have been living in Lebanon for a year and 10 days in a small cramped room in the Chouf area of Saadiyat. He suffers from serious health issues and “security problems” which have made him unable to work, forcing his wife to sell some of her jewelry in an effort to make some money.
He is hoping Germany will give him and his family a second chance, but is still eager to return home once the conflict in Lebanon’s neighbor settles down.
“We are immigrants by force, not by choice,” he added.
The refugees will be admitted under the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF)’s Humanitarian Admissions Program (HAP), according to IOM.
They arrived at Rafik Hariri International Airport in the morning and departed for Hanover, Germany, on a private charter flight, accompanied by IOM personnel and medical escorts.
Once in Hanover, the refugees will be transferred to a reception center in Friedland, where they will spend weeks undergoing an “extensive cultural program,” IOM spokeswoman Samantha Donkin said.
Twenty-five IOM charter flights will relocate the remaining refugees over the next 12 months.
“This is a very welcome initiative to help ease some of the pressure that Lebanon currently faces as a result of the massive influx of Syrian refugees,” said UNHCR Assistant Representative for Protection in Lebanon Veronique Robert.
“Not only will it provide 4,000 vulnerable Syrian refugees with better living conditions and improved access to services, but is a first step towards alleviating the burden on Lebanon - a small country now hosting over 730,000 refugees from Syria,” she added.
The next flight is scheduled to depart Beirut sometime in October, according to the UNHCR.
German Ambassador Christian Clages, who was present at the airport, told The Daily Star that he expects the German public will be welcoming to the refugees.
“The German public is, as all the audiences worldwide, watching with huge concern and [watching] these images from Syria under these circumstances,” he said.
Clages is also hoping more EU countries will follow suit, adding that one of the purposes of the program is to have other countries “follow in the spirit of a burden-sharing with Lebanon.”