Sudanese refugees evacuated from Iraq arrive in Romania

Briefing Notes, 27 January 2009

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 27 January 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

A group of 42 Sudanese refugees arrived in the Romanian city of Timisoara last night after being evacuated from a makeshift camp in the desert in Iraq. The refugees, who have been provided with winter clothing, are staying in the new Emergency Transit Centre set up by the Romanian government, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to provide a temporary haven for refugees pending final resettlement in a third country.

They are joining another group of Sudanese who arrived last December. A total of 138 Sudanese refugees are now in the Centre, including 40 children. They will stay in Timisoara until their applications for resettlement in the United States are processed.

The centre, the first of its kind in the world, has been used for refugees like these ones facing acute danger and in need of immediate evacuation.

In Iraq, the Sudanese refugees suffered abuse, blackmail, eviction and assault by militias following the 2003 downfall of the Saddam Hussein regime. A total of 17 Sudanese were killed between December 2004 and February 2005.

Because of this targeting, the refugees tried to flee Iraq but became stranded in the Al Anbar desert in the K-70 camp outside Al Rutbah town, some 75 km east of the Jordan-Iraq border. Conditions in the tented camp were very harsh, with desert sandstorms, soaring daytime temperatures and freezing weather at night.