Culture shock

Nearly three dozen Palestinians who fled Iraq to Jordan following the 2003 US-led war and who have been living in a squalid desert camp in Jordan have been flown to the South American country for resettlement.

The 32 refugees were among 100 Palestinians who have been living in the Ruweishid Camp on the Iraqi-Jordanian border after they fled Iraq after the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

The Amman office of the UN High Commission for Refugees say the remaining Palestinians will also be flown to Brazil in two more batches in October.

The refugee agency said up to 22 Palestinian families will be settled in Sao Paulo and 18 families will go to Rio Grande do Sul, in the southeast and southern regions of Brazil.

The families will receive medical care, rented accommodations and assistance for two years, while the children will attend language classes.

Brazil has a large Arab community estimated at about 12 million, most of whom are of Lebanese and Syrian descent.

Family's plight

Palestinian Ghazi Shaheen's family was originally forced to leave their homes in Haifa and Jaffa and move to Iraq when the state of Israel was founded.

Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq the family had to move once again, this time to the Ruweishid Camp.

"The reason I left Baghdad was because there was no safety. You never knew who was going to knock on your door and try to kill one of your family," Shaheen said.

Now the Brazilian government has offered the family refuge and for the children it is a chance to fulfil their dreams

Shaheen's daughter, Nour, said: "It will be so different, we can study there. There are no flies there. Here we cannot sleep properly, there we will; there is a future there." 

The family have been warned that building a new life in Brazil will not be easy: learning a new language, finding jobs, coping with the sheer shock of the change in culture.

Shaheen tells how his father, with tears in his eyes, used to tell him stories about the family's original home by the sea in Palestine.

And the irony of one last glimpse of his ancestral homeland from the aeroplane taking them to Sao Paulo is not lost on him as he continues a journey that began almost 60 years ago.