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Refugees Leave Chad for US

A group of 11 refugees left the Chadian capital N'Djamena by air on Sunday to be resettled in the United States. The group is comprised of seven urban refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, three urban Sudanese refugees and one person from the Central African Republic.

The UN refugee agency says the African refugees, who had been living in a camp in southern Chad, will be resettled in the U.S. States of Kentucky, Texas, Iowa and Utah.

The agency says the refugees are expected to experience some culture shock when they arrive in their new homes. But, spokesman, William Spindler, says resettlement in the United States offers them the best opportunity and hope for a future.

He describes those who are eligible for resettlement as particularly vulnerable. For example, he says they could be disabled people who have special needs that cannot be met in a refugee camp. Or, he says, they could include people who are in fear of persecution in the country where they have sought asylum.

"We look into each case in detail and only those case that have no prospect of integration in the asylum country or for different reasons cannot stay in that country are put forward for resettlement," said Spindler. "And, it is up to the receiving countries to make the final selection of how many of these people they will take."

The UNHCR says it plans to identify a total of 1,800 cases for resettlement throughout the year. Most of them will be Sudanese refugees from Darfur living in refugee camps in eastern Chad.

This number is only a tiny fraction of the 250,000 Sudanese refugees from the Darfur region who are living in 12 UNHCR-run camps in the east. In addition, the agency cares for 70,000 refugees from the Central African Republic in five camps in southern Chad.

Spindler agrees the number of places available for resettlement is very small compared to the needs. Therefore, he says potential candidates for resettlement go through a very rigorous process of selection.

"On average, this process takes seven to nine months in each case and it involves a series of interventions by our protection officers in the field, medical screening, cultural orientation sessions and so on," he said. "And, our staff is trained in anti-fraud measures to avoid selecting refugees who are not eligible. At the same time, refugees are counseled until the very day of their departure on the rights and obligations in their new country. So, it is a very laborious process."

Spindler says the next group of refugees is expected to depart N'Djamena in early July. He says it will mainly consist of Darfur refugees from eastern Chad's 12 refugee camps.

He says this group also will be resettled in the United States. But, he says the UNHCR hopes other countries will offer places of resettlement.