Guterres visits Iraq's Anbar Province, announces opening of new UNHCR office

News Stories, 26 November 2008

© UNHCR/R.Redmond
High Commissioner Guterres with officials and tribal leaders in Ramadi, Anbar Province, on Wednesday after announcing UNHCR will soon open an office there.

RAMADI, Iraq, Nov. 26 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugee António Guterres on Wednesday travelled to the Iraqi city of Ramadi, where he announced his agency will soon open an office one of 14 expected to be operational in the country by early 2009.

"We are now expanding our presence inside Iraq," Guterres told some 20 officials from Anbar Province and Ramadi municipality as well as tribal leaders. "We will have a presence in 14 governorates by early next year, including here in Ramadi."

Guterres, on his third visit to Iraq in 18 months, noted that the UN refugee agency already has a presence in 10 of the country's 18 governorates and will soon open four more. He said the expanded UNHCR presence reflected a decision to place more focus on preparations for the possible eventual return home of hundreds of thousands of refugees.

At the same time, the agency will continue its assistance and protection operations for Iraqi refugees in the region, particularly in Syria and Jordan.

"We have a lot of work to do with the Iraqi government to build on what's already been done to get the proper conditions in place for the voluntary and sustainable return of refugees in safety and dignity," Guterres said of the stepped-up UNHCR presence. He said those conditions included increased efforts for property restitution and compensation for returnees, as well as ensuring essential infrastructure such as schools, medical facilities, employment opportunities and delivery of assistance.

The increased UNHCR focus on humanitarian work inside Iraq coincides with an improved security situation in the country and an increasing number of uprooted people going home. Between June and October, some 140,000 people most of them internally displaced went back to their places of origin.

Guterres also noted that UNHCR's budget for operations inside Iraq would double next year to some US$81 million.

The chairman of Anbar's Provincial Council, Abdul Salam Al-Ani, said officials were extremely pleased with the High Commissioner's announcement of the opening of a new office in Ramadi. He also thanked Guterres for an offer of more assistance to some of the most vulnerable of the estimated 11,000 internally displaced families in Anbar.

Daniel Endres, UNHCR's Baghdad-based representative in Iraq, said the opening of the Ramadi office would "open a new chapter" in the agency's efforts to aid uprooted people in the region.

By Ron Redmond in Ramadi, Iraq




UNHCR country pages

The High Commissioner

António Guterres, who joined UNHCR on June 15, 2005, is the UN refugee agency's 10th High Commissioner.

Iraq Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Iraq.

Donate to this crisis

CAR Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Central African Republic.

Donate to this crisis

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

Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

Iraq: The Plight of the YazidisPlay video

Iraq: The Plight of the Yazidis

Tens of thousands of people, including ethnic Yazidis originating from the Sinjar area, have been forced to find shelter in schools and unfinished structures across northern Iraq since fleeing their homes. The UN refugee agency has been trying to help, opening camps to provide better shelter.
Iraq: Preparing for Winter in DohukPlay video

Iraq: Preparing for Winter in Dohuk

Efforts are under way in Syria, Iraq and neighbouring countries to prepare refugees and the internally displaced for winter. But UNHCR remains deeply concerned that a $58.45 million funding shortfall could leave as many as a million people out in the cold.
Iraq: The Generous GiverPlay video

Iraq: The Generous Giver

An estimated 1.8 million Iraqis have been internally displaced since the beginning of the year, with nearly half seeking refuge in the Kurdistan Region. As weary families began pouring into Dohuk, one local businessman built them a small camp equipped with tents, water, sanitation and electricity.