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UN Humanitarian Briefing on Iraq

UN Humanitarian Briefing on Iraq

15 April 2003

In the last hours we have received word from officials in the government's crisis management centre that seven Iraqis and four Palestinians, most of whom have been stuck in the no-man's-land at Al Karama for the last week, will be allowed into Jordan and to the camps at Ruweished.

We continue to approach the government regarding the continued need to admit people fleeing insecurity in Iraq.

The no-man's-land has been crowded in recent days, particularly since late yesterday, when to our surprise, US forces in Iraq brought a frightened group of more than 110 Iranian refugees who had fled Al Tash refugee camp due to looting and insecurity, up to the border.

It is unclear so far exactly what occurred at Al Tash to cause these refugees to flee. We are asking the government to allow this group into the country so that they can be sheltered at Ruwaished. Al Tash camp, about 120 kilometres west of Baghdad, holds more than 14,000 Iranian refugees, mostly ethnic Kurds.

Also stuck in the no-man's-land is another group of about 90 Iranians who began arriving at the frontier last Friday. All holders of refugee documents from various European and North American countries, these persons need to be properly interviewed. We've informed the government that they should not be summarily sent back to Iraq.

Conditions at the border are very primitive, and sanitation is poor. These groups are accommodated in tents and a large prefabricated warehouse provided by UNHCR and the Red Crescent. UNHCR has distributed blankets and other basic assistance, the International Committee of the Red Cross has provided food and stoves, while the Red Crescent has distributed clothing, washing soap and other assistance.

In Syria, we currently have more than 210 Iraqis in El Hol camp. Our mobile team that visited the Al Yarubiyeh border crossing in north-eastern Syria today saw two minibuses carrying families back into Iraq. Syrian border guards told us that so far today 68 Iraqis had gone back over that crossing, about two hours west of Mosul. One of our mobile team's plans to visit the Abu Kamal frontier on Wednesday.