The United States has begun accepting the first group of 1,800 refugees it plans to resettle annually from communities and overburdened refugee camps in Chad.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which is coordinating the selection process and the transfer, says that most of the victims Chad has been housing are blameless civilians, who have been caught up and displaced by heavy fighting in Sudan’s Darfur, the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the Central African Republic (CAR).
A group of 11 left Chad’s capital N’djamena by air on Sunday for relocation in four moderate-size American cities – Lexington, Kentucky; San Antonio, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; and Salt Lake City, Utah.
UNHCR spokesperson Annette Rehrl is based in Abeche in eastern Chad near the border with Sudan. She discloses that the next Chadian group bound for North America, will be comprised of civilians originally from predominantly rural areas. These refugees come from the same three war-wracked countries who have been uprooted to displacement camps in eastern and southern Chad, and they’re expected to leave N’djamena in early July for the United States.
“Within UNHCR, we call urban refugees those who fled into a country and who live by themselves. The next group will be leaving early July, and these will be mainly refugees who are right now still living in one of the 12 refugee camps we do have for Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad and refugees from the Central African Republic living in five of the refugee camps in southern Chad,” Rehrl indicated.
She says UNHCR has many donor countries who assist in various refugee crises around the world, but the United States is the first and only country so far to accept Chadians, Sudanese, Congolese and CAR war victims in its communities.
“For the refugees in Chad, the United States is the first country who offered us to take some refugees because Chad has been hosting 330-thousand refugees for the past six to seven years from Sudan and from the Central African Republic. It has a total of 250-thousand refugees from Darfur in 12 refugee camps and 70-thousand refugees from the Central African Republic in five camps. So it’s up to the receiving countries to contact us with this offer,” she observed.
Once the African refugees become acclimated to life in the United States, UN refugee spokesperson Annette Rehrl says they will live on their own. Many will find members of their own nationalities and ethnic groups already living in their new communities as naturalized American citizens.
“The United States has always accepted many people from the world. So you have in many different states and cities many different communities and I suppose that if these communities know that a person from their country of origin is arriving, that they will also help the person or the family to adapt to his new surroundings,” she suggested.
After English classes, many of the youthful immigrants will want pursue academic degrees at colleges and universities. Others will want to join the US work force and find secure jobs.