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UN Humanitarian Briefing on Iraq

UN Humanitarian Briefing on Iraq

22 April 2003

Following yesterday's deportation by the Syrian authorities, the UN refugee agency is currently caring for 168 Iraqi refugees in El Hol refugee camp, in the north-east of the country. Seven Iraqi refugees who arrived in Syria five days ago are currently waiting at the Syrian Red Crescent transit camp at Abu Kamal for transport to El Hol. There is an additional group of 700 Sudanese third country nationals - mostly students - also sheltered at the Abu Kamal site waiting for onward transport.

To the north at Syria's Al Yarubiyeh crossing with Iraq, a group of 65 Sudanese third country nationals have been waiting at the border for the last five days for entry. Both UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are following up with Damascus on their request to leave Iraq via Syria.

Here in Jordan, we've achieved a small breakthrough with the agreement by the government to admit the Iraqi refugees, as well as Palestinians and Syrians who have been waiting at the border for some weeks. So far today nearly 200 persons have been shifted to our refugee camp at Ruwaished on IOM buses from the Al Karama border crossing.

The Jordanian authorities are apparently requiring the new arrivals at Ruwaished to sign waivers indicating that they will return to Iraq once the crisis is over. UNHCR maintains that no one should return to Iraq until it is safe and security has been re-established in the country.

Small numbers of people continue to arrive at Jordan's border with Iraq, and we still have some 800 Iranians in the no man's land site. These Iranians are mainly ethnic Kurds who fled Al Tash refugee camp west of Baghdad over the last week due to insecurity and a lack of assistance, as well as some 58 other Iranians all recognized refugees by various European and North American countries, and also Australia.

We remain very worried about the fate of the more than 11,000 other Iranian ethnic Kurds in Al Tash camp, as well as the more than 100,000 other Palestinian, Iranian, Turkish and other refugees inside Iraq, in addition of course for all residents of the country. It is vital that the occupying powers ensure security inside Iraq and the efficient distribution of relief assistance.