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Iraq: 500 return this week, relief items moved in

Briefing notes

Iraq: 500 return this week, relief items moved in

16 December 2003

Some 500 Iraqi refugees have returned to Iraq this week in convoys facilitated by UNHCR. Two hundred and forty five refugees returned from Iran's Mothari and Ansar camps in south-western Khuzestan Province yesterday in a convoy of six buses and 17 trucks. This was the third convoy to go back from Iran since we began facilitating last month the return of refugees anxious to return and unwilling to wait for the security situation to improve. Most were going home to Basra, while others were headed for Karbala and Najaf. For the last 20 years, Iran has sheltered an estimated 200,000 Iraqi refugees who fled during the Iran-Iraq war, with most living among Iranian host communities and only 48,000 in camps.

This morning, another convoy of 254 refugees from the 1991 Gulf war returned to Iraq after leaving Saudi Arabia's Rafha camp late yesterday in five buses and eight trucks. This was our 13th convoy to leave Rafha since July. The returning refugees transited Kuwait overnight, returning to Basra, Al Muthanna, Karbala, Baghdad, Kyala and Wasit. Only about 1,000 Iraqis remain in Rafha after the return so far of 4,200. All the returning refugees are met by UNHCR national staff upon their arrival and given various assistance items and tents if they require emergency shelter.

This week, we shifted ten trucks loaded with relief items from our stockpile in Kermanshah, Iran, to our southern Iraq stockpile in Basra. Among the goods delivered to Iraq this week were 1,000 tents, 500 plastic tarpaulins, 6,000 blankets, 1,200 cooking and heating stoves, 2,000 kitchen sets and 6,000 jerry cans.