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Iraq region latest

Briefing notes

Iraq region latest

25 March 2003

There have been no substantial movements of Iraqi refugees across neighbouring borders. UNHCR staff and our partners continue to monitor the border situation throughout the region and we liaise closely with the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] for information on possible movements inside Iraq. On funding, UNHCR has so far received a little over $25 million of the $60 million we need for our initial contingency plan for one month.

Our office in Iran reports this morning that there have been no arrivals of Iraqi refugees into Iran so far, although there have been reports of pockets of Iraqis who had moved along the Iraqi side of the border with Iran as a precaution. They are mainly people from northern Iraq. Our latest reports indicate that in the past several days, more than 22,000 Iraqis have moved to the Iraqi town of Panjwin [not Nowsud, as previously reported], close to the Iranian border province of Kurdistan. ICRC says these people have no immediate plans of proceeding toward Iran. ICRC also has informed UNHCR and IOM [The International Organization for Migration] of the presence of more than 100 third country nationals, or immigrants in Iraq, who are now on the Iraqi side of the Iraq-Iran crossing at Khosravi in Kermanshah province. They are reportedly awaiting permission from the Iraqi authorities to cross the border into Iran.

In view of the worrisome situation reported by ICRC and others in the southern city of Basra, southern Iraq, UNHCR's mobile teams based in the south-western Iranian city in Ahwaz are closely monitoring borders in that region.

Meanwhile, our preparations to receive possible Iraqi refugees continue in Iran. Work on basic infrastructure - water and sanitation facilities - is proceeding smoothly in four of 10 camp sites the Iranian government is preparing with assistance from UNHCR. We continue to stockpile relief items in warehouses in Ahwaz and Kermanshah towns in western Iran. Over the weekend, the Iranian government received four planeloads of relief supplies from the Russian aid agency, EMERCOM. The 150 metric tons of relief supplies flown to Kermanshah included tents, stoves, water filters, blankets, dried food, generators, flour, soap, canned milk, salt and tools. The Iranian government has turned over the Russian donation to the Iranian Red Crescent Society as part of the emergency relief supplies for Iraqi refugees.

In Turkey, three mobile UNHCR teams in southern Turkey are in the far east of the country today monitoring the border with northern Iraq. One team is in Uludere and two others are heading to Cukurce. They will be based there and monitor the border from there - the whole stretch right up to the Iranian border.

Conditions are very difficult in this mountainous region. It is snowing and some roads are blocked. Despite reports of population displacement in the north of Iraq, Iraqis have so far not approached the frontier with Turkey - people seem to be sticking close to their communities.

An eight-truck UNHCR convoy carrying 8,000 mattresses from our regional warehouse at Iskenderun, Turkey arrived yesterday at the Turkish Red Crescent warehouse in Silopi, near the border with Northern Iraq. Iskenderun is one of three main regional UNHCR stockpiles - the others are at Aqaba, Jordan, and Ahwaz, Iran. The Iskenderun stockpile currently has more than 60,000 blankets, 9,000 tents, 18,000 kitchen sets, 44,000 jerry cans, 58,000 mattresses, 15,000 stoves, 10,300 plastic rolls, 17,000 lanterns, and 11 prefabricated warehouses. These supplies can be shifted into Syria or elsewhere if needed.