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UN Humanitarian Briefing on Iraq

UN Humanitarian Briefing on Iraq

11 April 2003

Large groups of Iraqis and other foreign nationals are reportedly still moving from Baghdad and other cities, trying to find security and safety.

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.

Iraqi taxi drivers arriving at Jordan's Al Karama border have said they saw many people gathered at Ramadi, about two hours west of Baghdad. According to them, and to others arriving at the Jordanian border, people are not being prevented from leaving, though there are reportedly many checkpoints along the route.

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 give temporary protection to some Iraqis at the border and to allow other foreign nationals into the country. Some of the 14 persons now stuck in the no-man's-land on Iraq's frontier have been there for several days. Our refugee camp at Ruwaished stands ready, and we want to see these desperate people given the temporary protection they need.

It is vital that anyone who feels unsafe or threatened during the war and the chaos that has engulfed various Iraqi cities be given the protection they need. Very little of what is going on inside Iraq is known to outside observers, but what we do know is that some groups have gone out of control, with pillaging and other violence apparently widespread. During this period of both continued fighting in some areas and anarchy in others, desperate people fearing for their lives have the right to seek the protection of temporary asylum in a neighbouring country.

Among those stuck at Jordan's border with Iraq is one Iraqi man with three dependents who reached the border yesterday. His wife and son was reportedly killed during the bombing campaign. 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.