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Iranian Kurd refugees - different destinies and destinations

News Stories, 26 November 2004

© UNHCR/K.Nagasaka
Iranian Kurd women learning to weave at Iraq's Al Tash refugee camp, which has since been caught up in fighting.

GENEVA, Nov 26 (UNHCR) Thirteen Iranian Kurd refugee families have arrived in northern Iraq after fleeing central Iraq's Al Tash camp last week, but the fate of some 1,400 others on the run and another 2,800 who remain at the camp is still unknown. Meanwhile, a separate group of Iranian Kurds has been resettled to Sweden.

Until recently, Al Tash camp, located near Ramadi about 50 km from Fallujah, hosted nearly 4,200 Iranian Kurd refugees. Last week, 1,400 of them fled the camp after generalised fighting around Ramadi, including an attack by armed men against the police post inside the camp.

"UNHCR, which has no staff on the ground, has been informed by our implementing partner in Al Tash that access to the camp is currently not possible because of the very difficult security conditions in the area," said UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis at a news briefing in Geneva on Friday.

The police station is now empty, and there is no one to provide security for the remaining 2,800 refugees believed to be still in Al Tash. Furthermore, these refugees will not have received their monthly food ration since the public distribution system, which targets both Iraqis and refugees in the area, has broken down because of the fighting.

"This is an extremely serious situation, and UNHCR is working with its implementing partner to find a way of accessing the camp as a matter of urgency," said Pagonis.

© UNHCR/A.Van Genderen Stort
One of the Iranian Kurd families that have been resettled to Sweden.

She noted that 13 families out of the 1,400 who fled the camp have arrived in Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq, where a UNHCR Iraqi staff member is interviewing them to determine what happened in Al Tash and what their current needs are. The fate of the others who fled the camp is unknown.

Meanwhile, another group of Iranian Kurd refugees who had fled Iraq during the conflict of spring 2003 and spent the last year and half in the no man's land between Iraq and Jordan have left Amman for a new life in Sweden. A total of 202 refugees flew out of the Jordanian capital on Wednesday, while another 182 are scheduled to leave early next month.

"However, there are still almost 650 people stuck in no man's land, and UNHCR continues to advocate and lobby for resettlement for this group," said Pagonis.

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Resettlement

An alternative for those who cannot go home, made possible by UNHCR and governments.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Between February and October 2011, more than 1 million people crossed into Tunisia to escape conflict in Libya. Most were migrant workers who made their way home or were repatriated, but the arrivals included refugees and asylum-seekers who could not return home or live freely in Tunisia.

UNHCR has been trying to find solutions for these people, most of whom ended up in the Choucha Transit Camp near Tunisia's border with Libya. Resettlement remains the most viable solution for those registered as refugees at Choucha before a cut-off date of December 1, 2011.

As of late April, 14 countries had accepted 2,349 refugees for resettlement, 1,331 of whom have since left Tunisia. The rest are expected to leave Choucha later this year. Most have gone to Australia, Norway and the United States. But there are a more than 2,600 refugees and almost 140 asylum-seekers still in the camp. UNHCR continues to advocate with resettlement countries to find solutions for them.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and more than 2 million others have fled to nearby countries. While many people were displaced before 2003, increasing numbers of Iraqis are now fleeing escalating sectarian, ethnic and general violence. Since January 2006, UNHCR estimates that more than 800,000 Iraqis have been uprooted and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. UNHCR anticipates there will be approximately 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of 2007. The refugee agency and its partners have provided emergency assistance, shelter and legal aid to displaced Iraqis where security has allowed.

In January 2007, UNHCR launched an initial appeal for US$60 million to fund its Iraq programme. Despite security issues for humanitarian workers inside the country, UNHCR and partners hope to continue helping up to 250,000 of the most vulnerable internally displaced Iraqis and their host communities

Posted on 12 June 2007

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

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