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Slovakia signs agreement with United Nations on housing 101 refugees

SLOVAKIA will accommodate 101 Palestinian refugees in Slovakia for six months, according to an agreement with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) that Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák signed on July 21, news wire TASR wrote.

SLOVAKIA will accommodate 101 Palestinian refugees in Slovakia for six months, according to an agreement with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) that Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák signed on July 21, news wire TASR wrote.

The refugees are to be housed in an asylum facility in Humenné (Košice region), and will later be sent to other countries. The group will mainly include families - women with children - who are currently living in poor conditions in the Al Waleed camp in Iraq.

The agreement takes effect on July 20, and will expire one month after the refugees are moved to a third country. The project will cost the ministry €362,862.

Kaliňák called the move a display of solidarity and appreciated the fact that agreement was reached quickly and that Slovakia can help these people.

Vincent Cochetel from UNHCR's department for international migration said that the refugees are being moved at this time because military protection of the camp near the border with Syria can be secured only until the end of this year. He said that there are still 1,000 refugees in the camp and that UNHCR must act quickly. Romania has also reacted to the call to accommodate refugees, news wire TASR wrote.

During their stay in Slovakia, the Palestinians will be provided with accommodation, food, and basic hygiene needs - the same care that is received by asylum applicants. No language classes are planned as they will move on to other countries, though Kaliňák and Cochelet didn't specify the destination.

The refugees can apply for asylum in Slovakia, Kaliňák said adding that the primary goal is to secure a safe place and adequate care for them before they are accepted by other states.

IOM regional director Argentina Szabados said that it's very generous of Slovakia to offer the refugees a place to stay. She vowed to make this project successful so that the people can eventually start new lives. The asylum shelter in Humenné is a model facility that can be introduced in other countries as well.

The request to accommodate the refugees was sent in a letter to Prime Minister Robert Fico by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres on March 20, 2009, TASR wrote.

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