Syrian refugees (2014)

Crisis in Syria and its neighboring countries

Since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011, the UNHCR has appealed for assistance to the many Syrian refugees. More than 4 million Syrians have fled their country (situation as at 1 August 2015). Thousands of new people arrive every day in its neighboring countries. For some of these refugees, resettlement or humanitarian admission to a third country is the only solution. 

Given that the neighboring countries are facing enormous pressure from migration, the reception conditions are getting worse and people end up in very vulnerable situations: women are at risk of abuse, children lack protection and education, there is insufficient access to medical care and there is a risk of sexual violence… All of this while 76% of the refugees are women and children. 

To this point, more than 25 countries, including Belgium, have responded to the appeal from UNHCR by resettling vulnerable Syrian refugees. In 2014, Belgium selected Syrian refugees located in urban areas in Turkey. Turkey has more than 1.9 million Syrian refugees (situation as at 1 October 2015) staying in camps on the Syrian border or in urban areas.

The Syrians resettled in Belgium in 2015 are from Lebanon, where about 1 million Syrians have fled (situation as at 1 October 2015).

Source: Information portal on Syrian refugees (UNHCR) 

Selection of refugees

A CGRS delegation went to Ankara, Turkey in August 2014. The team consisted of two protection officers specialized in Syria and the region, as well as a mission coordinator.

In total, the group consisted of some 20 families and a dozen single people who have been presented to Belgium by UNHCR. Almost half of them (40%) were younger than 18. All of these refugees lived in an urban environment, mostly in Istanbul. They all have a story of their own but they all have in common that they are very vulnerable and they have suffered severely from the Syrian conflict. Many of them have lost family members. 

During the mission, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) also performed a medical examination on these people.

More information about the selection mission.

Before the Syrian refugees (re)settle in Belgium, they received a visit from Fedasil in November 2014 for their cultural orientation. The purpose of this visit was to manage their expectations and give them a clear picture of their future in Belgium.

Arrival in Belgium and time spent in a reception centre

The 71 Syrian refugees arrived in Belgium between November 2014 and August 2015. The refugees were accommodated in Fedasil's reception centres of Sint-Truiden and Pondrôme (Beauraing). For about six weeks, the adults took part in an integration course, social-cultural orientation and language lessons in the centre. The children resumed school. Anyone who needed urgent medical attention, received the necessary care during their stay in the centre.

Relocation to the municipalities

In January 2015, the first families relocated to their new homes in a Belgian municipality. Here, the refugees, supported by the PSWC and the NGOs Caritas and Convivial, will have at least one year to adapt to their new lives. The municipalities who are accommodating these refugees, are spread across Belgium. Some of the refugees were allocated a house near family members already living in Belgium.