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GENEVA, September 27 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency on Friday welcomed this week's announcement by Brazil's National Committee for Refugees (CONARE) of special humanitarian visas for Syrians and other nationals affected by the Syrian conflict and who wish to seek refuge in Brazil.
"The decision will help expedite entry to Brazil and the resolution providing this special procedure is valid for two years," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva, while welcoming the development.
According to the announcement, Brazil's embassies in countries neighbouring Syria will be responsible for issuing travel visas for people wanting to go there. Claims for asylum will need to be presented on arrival in Brazil. These special humanitarian visas will also be provided to family members living in countries neighbouring Syria.
Brazil is the first country in the Americas region to adopt such an approach towards Syrian refugees. An estimated 3 million Brazilians have Syrian ancestry, mainly from a wave of immigration that occurred at around the start of the 20th Century.
So far the number of refugees from the Syria crisis in Brazil has been small, with around 280 individuals having been recognized by CONARE. There are no pending asylum claims and Brazil has approved 100 per cent of the claims that have been presented.
However, according to the Ministry of Justice, the number has been gradually increasing. The procedure announced by the Brazilian government is consistent with the provisions made by the country's refugee law.
Currently some 3,000 asylum-seekers and some 4,300 refugees are living in Brazil. Most are from Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria.
UNHCR has called on states to provide for humanitarian admissions of up to 10,000 refugees from Syria this year. Humanitarian admission is an expedited process that can provide an immediate solution for those in greatest need while a resettlement programme is in its initial stages of implementation. It also allows for additional places outside of states' annual resettlement quotas.
To date, Germany has offered 5,000 places for the humanitarian admission of Syrian refugees from Lebanon, and Austria has offered 500. A number of other countries have come forward with offers of resettlement places. These include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. As of 10 September these countries had pledged more than 1,650 resettlement places, 960 of which are for 2013. The United States has indicated that it is willing to consider an additional unspecified number of cases.