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Iraq region: displacement towards Iran

Briefing notes

Iraq region: displacement towards Iran

11 April 2003

Up to 30,000 displaced Iraqis have reportedly reached the Iraqi border town of Badrah, near western Iran, seeking assistance after fleeing fighting in Baghdad and Nasiriya. A UNHCR team dispatched to the Iranian border town of Mehran, 16 km from Badrah, yesterday (Thursday) met at the border with representatives of the displaced Iraqis and was told that they have no immediate intention of crossing into Iran. They said that they fled Baghdad and Nasiriya earlier this week and were tired and simply wanted to remain in the area with relatives and friends. Iranian authorities sent food, water and medicine to Badrah, a town of about 6,000. More aid is being requested.

The UNHCR team in Mehran was unable to confirm Iranian news reports that up to 100,000 displaced Iraqis had converged on Badrah. There have been no refugee arrivals reported in Iran since the war broke out in Iraq, but there have been reports of the presence of small groups of Iraqis on the Iraqi side of the frontier who have requested assistance but have made no effort to cross into Iran.

The Iranian refugee agency BAFIA, with help from UNHCR, has prepared 10 campsites to meet a possible Iraqi refugee influx into Iran. Basic facilities, such as sanitation and water services, are being built in four of these sites, which would initially meet the needs of 60,000 refugees. The other sites could be opened quickly if the need arises. UNHCR has also stockpiled tents, blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets and supplementary foods in its warehouses in the western Iran cities of Kermanshah and Ahwaz.

It is vital that anyone who feels unsafe or threatened in the current chaos that has engulfed various Iraqi cities be able to leave. Groups of Iraqis and other foreign nationals are reportedly still moving from Baghdad and other cities, trying to find security and safety. Those who have so far arrived at Jordan's eastern frontier say that they are fearful of the growing anarchy and lawlessness. We are negotiating with the Jordanian authorities to allow 17 people, some of whom have been stuck in the no-man's-land on Iraq's frontier for several days, into Jordan, and to our camp at Ruwaished. Among those stuck at Jordan's border with Iraq is one Iraqi man with three dependents. His wife was reportedly killed during the bombing campaign and he reached the frontier on Thursday. Five other Iraqis are also at the border seeking entry into Jordan. Others caught at the frontier include a Canadian citizen of Iranian origin and three Iranian refugees with French and German travel documents, as well as a Palestinian family of four.