More aid arrives in Iraq as UNHCR builds homes for returnees in north
BASRA, Iraq, August 5 (UNHCR) - As interest in repatriation builds among some Iraqi exile communities, the UN refugee agency has stepped up efforts to stabilise return conditions by providing aid to areas of return and positioning large quantities of relief supplies in the country.
On Tuesday, UNHCR loaded a Hercules C-130 cargo plane in Iskenderun, Turkey with three prefabricated warehouses and 90 tents bound for Basra in southern Iraq. This is in addition to 50 truckloads of aid sent from the refugee agency's stockpile in Jordan last week.
Basra is expected to receive the second return convoy of Iraqi refugees from Saudi Arabia's Rafha camp early next week. The first convoy of 244 Iraqis arrived home to great fanfare last Wednesday.
Organised returns from Iran are also planned, and UNHCR has sent Iraq's Central Provisional Authority (CPA) a list of 106 Iraqi refugees who would like to return from Ashrafi camp in western Iran. Convoys are expected to start later in August.
Meanwhile, the refugee agency has been working to stabilise conditions in northern areas where internally displaced people are returning. Under the previous government's campaign against Iraqi Kurds, some of these people had been forced out of their villages. They are now coming back to find their homes destroyed and their land occupied by Iraqi Arabs.
Villagers from Dengawa and Tela Mater villages in Makhmour district were able to return to their properties under an arrangement mediated by the CPA that allowed the settlers to receive 50 percent of this year's crop of wheat and barley.
UNHCR is helping to build 70 houses for around 500 people in the two villages, providing returnees with cement, concrete blocks, gravel, sand, door and window frames to rebuild their own homes. This follows earlier distributions of blankets, lamps, stoves and kitchen sets.
The refugee agency will expand its shelter and basic assistance programme to other villages, including several in the Dohuk and Kirkuk regions of northern Iraq. However, UNHCR has cautioned that some areas are unsuitable for return now because of property disputes, the lack of basic infrastructure and in some cases, the danger of unexploded ordnance.