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United Arab Emirates donates US$10 million to UNHCR for Iraq projects

News Stories, 2 October 2007

© UNHCR/J.Wreford
Trucks with aid from the United Arab Emirates being unloaded. The UAE has donated US$10 million to UNHCR for its Iraq crisis programmes.

GENEVA, October 2 (UNHCR) The president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, has donated US$10 million to the UN refugee agency for its programmes aimed at helping Iraqi refugees in Syria.

"We thank the president and the people of the United Arab Emirates for this timely contribution, evidence of our enhanced humanitarian partnership and of humanitarian solidarity within the region," UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.

She said the money would help ease the suffering of Iraqi refugees and alleviate some of the burden being shouldered by host countries such as Syria, which is sheltering more than 1.4 million Iraqis who have fled violence in their country.

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is sending a message of thanks and appreciation to Sheikh Khalifa in recognition of the US$10 million donation, the largest to UNHCR from the United Arab Emirates since the Middle Eastern federation started contributing to the agency in 1980. The contribution is equal to all contributions from the region to UNHCR over the past ten years.

UNHCR has to date appealed for a total of US$223 million for the Iraqi humanitarian crisis, including a US$129 million joint appeal with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) aimed at getting 150,000 Iraqi refugee children back to school in neighbouring countries.

In the region, meanwhile, UNHCR staff on Monday reported that the Iraq-Syria border crossing at Al Tanf was largely deserted, in sharp contrast to the day before when the same team had seen large numbers of Iraqis crossing into Syria. Iraqi commercial truck drivers the only ones who had reportedly received visas were still passing through yesterday.

"While we have not had any formal notification by the Syrian authorities, we believe this might well indicate that Syria has again started to impose visa restrictions on Iraqis wishing to enter Syria," Pagonis said.

Last month, Syria announced its intention to impose visa restrictions, declaring it had received more than 1.4 million Iraqis and was now at the breaking point. With the start of the fasting month of Ramadan, however, the visa restrictions were temporarily postponed. It now appears they have been reimposed.

A closure of the border would effectively mean that Iraqis fleeing their country would lose their only remaining safe haven. Pagonis said the UNHCR team in Syria was still discussing with the government a proposal for the introduction of a special humanitarian visa, which would allow those most in need to still enter the country for urgent humanitarian reasons.

There are more than 4.4 million uprooted Iraqis and they continue to flee at the rate of some 60,000 a month. More than 2.2 million of them are displaced inside the country, with some 800,900 people living in the northern governorates, 740,500 in the centre and 714,600 living in the south of Iraq. Another 2.2 million Iraqis have fled the country the majority of them to Syria.

The Iraqis in Syria now constitute about 10 percent of the total population and put an enormous strain on the country. UNHCR has been calling for increased support for countries like Syria and Jordan who jointly host more than 2 million refugees.

During the first six months of 2007, an estimated 19,800 Iraqis asked for asylum in industrialized countries outside the region. At the same time, UNHCR referred the files of more than 14,000 of the most vulnerable Iraqis to resettlement countries for their consideration. By the end of September, some 1,800 of these Iraqis had departed to various resettlement countries.

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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

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

After Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in Iraq in 2003, groups of refugees who had lived in the country for many years tried to leave the chaos and lawlessness that soon ensued. Hundreds of people started fleeing to the border with Jordan, including Palestinians in Baghdad and Iranian Kurds from the Al Tash refugee camp in central Iraq.

Aside from a few Palestinians with family connections inside the neighbouring country, the refugees were refused entry and free movement in Jordan. Thousands were soon stranded in the no-man's land between Iraq and Jordan or at the desert camp of Ruweished, located 60 kilometres inside Jordan.

Since 2003, Palestinians, Iranian Kurds, Iranians, Sudanese and Somalis have been living there and suffering the scorching heat and freezing winters of the Jordanian desert. UNHCR and its partners have provided housing and assistance and tried to find solutions – the agency has helped resettle more than 1,000 people in third countries. At the beginning of 2007, a total of 119 people – mostly Palestinians – remained in Ruweished camp without any immediate solution in sight.

Posted on 20 February 2007

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

The UN refugee agency has launched a US$60 million appeal to fund its work helping hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people. The new appeal concludes that unremitting violence in Iraq will likely mean continued mass internal and external displacement affecting much of the surrounding region. The appeal notes that the current exodus is the largest long-term population movement in the Middle East since the displacement of Palestinians following the creation of Israel in 1948.

UNHCR has warned that the longer this conflict goes on, the more difficult it will become for the hundreds of thousands of displaced and the communities that are trying to help them – both inside and outside Iraq. Because the burden on host communities and governments in the region is enormous, it is essential that the international community support humanitarian efforts.

The US$60 million will cover UNHCR's protection and assistance programmes for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey, as well as non-Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people within Iraq itself.

Posted on 10 January 2007

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