80 Congo refugees to be resettled in Ireland
Some 80 refugees who fled a brutal civil conflict in the Congo will be resettled in Ireland next year.
The families are currently living in refugee camps in the north-western region of Tanzania.
Integration minister Conor Lenihan and officials will travel to Tanzania tomorrow to finalise details of the UN-led resettlement move.
The refugees are expected to arrive in Ireland in April 2009 and will immediately take part in a six-week orientation programme in Co Mayo to help them adjust to their new lives in Ireland.
They will then be resettled in a town which has not yet been disclosed.
Ireland accepts about 200 refugees each year under the resettlement programme run by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
"Many of these refugees will have spent long years in refugee camps living under stressful conditions and this humanitarian-based programme offers the opportunity for new lives," said a spokesman for Mr Lenihan.
"On arrival in Ireland, the refugees have, in general, the same rights as ordinary Irish citizens. They also have the same responsibilities."
Last year about 100 ethnic Burmese people were successfully resettled in Co Mayo and are reported to be integrating well with the local population.
The UNHCR generally only considers the most vulnerable refugees for resettlement.
For decades, Tanzania has hosted one of the largest refugee populations in Africa because it is a relatively stable and peaceful country.
People have fled over its borders from conflicts, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as Rwanda and Burundi.
According to the UNHCR, Tanzania currently has the seventh largest number of refugees in the world and the largest number in the world relative to GDP.
Of these, 97,000 are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), mainly from the southern part of South Kivu province.
Nearly 60 per cent of the Congolese refugee population in Tanzania are under 18 years old.
Refugees fled as a result of the brutal civil war which lasted from 1998 to 2003.
While there is an ongoing repatriation programme to the DRC, repatriation to the South Kivu region is not considered a safe option.
Most of the refugees in Tanzania live in camps and depend on international humanitarian aid for survival.
Tanzanian legislation does not allow them to work in the country.
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