SANTIAGO – Chilean President Michelle Bachelet was at Santiago’s international airport on Thursday to welcome 66 refugees from the Syrian civil war.
“We know that you come from a difficult history and what we want is for you to find in our country a land that receives you with friendship, with good will,” she told the 36 adults and 32 children who fled a conflict that has claimed more than 400,000 lives and driven 10 million people from their homes.
For Chile, Bachelet said, it is an “obligation, but also a privilege” to provide a haven for refugees.
The Syrians were brought to Chile as part of a process coordinated by the Chilean Interior Ministry, the UN Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration and the Catholic charity Caritas.
Half of the group will be settled in Villa Alemana, a town in the coastal region of Valparaiso, while the remainder will live in the Santiago neighborhood of Macul.
Along with a monthly stipend, the newcomers are to receive Spanish lessons and job-training and will be enrolled in the public health system.
The group includes people with a wide range of occupations, Bachelet noted, from jewelers to carpenters to tailors to air conditioning and refrigeration technicians.
Chile, which is home to roughly 80,000 people of Syrian descent, has accepted a total of 250 refugees from Syria since war broke out in the Middle Eastern nation more than six years ago.