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UN Humanitarian Briefing on Iraq

UN Humanitarian Briefing on Iraq

10 April 2003

On Iraq's western frontier, armed men have this morning been looting the border post at Trebil following the disappearance of the guards overnight.

Iraq's internal situation is perhaps more uncertain now than ever before, as growing chaos and the ongoing war bring new dangers to the civilian population. Looting and lawlessness appear to be rampant in many areas of Iraq, and the current security vacuum and uncertainty is prompting some people to flee. There is an immediate need for the occupying forces to maintain law and order and to ensure that people who need humanitarian aid have access to such assistance. It is also vital that anyone who feels unsafe be able to reach neighbouring countries.

Over the last day, small numbers of Iraqi refugees and other foreign nationals are continuing to reach Syria, perhaps feeling compelled to leave due to the precarious security situation inside Iraq.

More than 100 Iraqis and other third country nationals have crossed into Syria at the Al Tanf border in the last 24 hours, including 27 Palestinians, 24 Sudanese, and some 50 persons from mixed marriages. Most are currently at the Al Tanf transit centre. The Palestinians are being temporarily shifted to the El Hol camp while we discuss with UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] and the Syrian government how they can be best assisted. More than 50 Iraqis are currently sheltered at El Hol.

Jordan has seen no refugee arrivals overnight, though six Iraqis are currently at the no-man's-land and we expect them to be processed in the coming hours.

UNHCR today dispatched a team to look into reports by Iranian authorities that some 1,500 Iraqis who fled Baghdad on Wednesday had reached an area close to Iran. The Iranian refugee agency BAFIA [Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants] told UNHCR that the group was in the Iraqi town of Badre, 6 km from Mehran in Iran's western border province of Ilam. BAFIA officials said that 150 Iraqis from this group went to the Mehran border to request assistance and were provided with food. The Iranian officials however said that these Iraqis had not sought entry into Iran.

No Iraqi refugee arrivals have been reported in Iran since the war in Iraq broke out, but there have been reports of the presence of displaced Iraqis on the Iraqi side of the border who had requested help, but had made no attempts to cross the frontier. Iran has said that its borders are closed but that it is willing to allow entry to Iraqi refugees whose lives are in danger. The Iranian Foreign Ministry and Interior Ministry have requested UNHCR to maintain its level of preparations to meet an Iraqi refugee emergency.