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Iraq: No Man's Land refugees transferred to Ruweished, Al Tash population to safer location

Briefing notes

Iraq: No Man's Land refugees transferred to Ruweished, Al Tash population to safer location

31 May 2005

We are pleased to announce two important breakthroughs involving some of the refugees who were living in Iraq at the time of the 2003 war, and who have been in some difficulty ever since.

On Sunday, the entire population of 743 people who have been living in an unofficial camp in No Man's Land between Jordan and Iraq for up to two years, was relocated to Ruweished camp, some 60 kilometres inside Jordan.

Although conditions in Ruweished are far from perfect, it is nevertheless distinctly preferable to the No Man's Land camp, which was extremely difficult to access, potentially at considerable physical risk, and was under no state's jurisdiction.

UNHCR will now redouble its efforts to persuade states - either within the region or elsewhere - to provide solutions for the people relocated from No Man's Land and for the 127 people - mostly Palestinians - who were already housed in Ruweished.

Most of the people who were moved out of No Man's Land on Sunday are Iranian Kurds, who were originally part of a population of some 12,000 Iranian Kurds hosted for more than 20 years in Al Tash camp, near Ramadi in central Iraq. Ever since the 2003 war, the population of Al Tash, located in one of the most insecure areas of Iraq, has been living in very difficult conditions, with frequent water shortages, other reduced or interrupted services, and security incidents. Because of the security situation, aid agencies including UNHCR have only been able to make sporadic visits to the camp.

In another welcome breakthrough, we have just been informed that the Iraqi Prime Minister's office has approved a proposed plan to relocate Al Tash camp's remaining population - some 3,100 people - to a much safer location near Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq. Another 3,200 former Al Tash residents have already moved up to the Sulaymaniyah region on their own initiative, and have been helped by the local authorities, UNHCR and other agencies to settle in to their new home area. The local authorities in Sulaymaniyah have also approved the relocation of the remaining Al Tash population, and a recent survey revealed that most of the camp's population will be more than happy to make this move.