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UN Humanitarian Briefing on Iraq

UN Humanitarian Briefing on Iraq

12 April 2003

An inter-agency assessment mission to look into the needs of up to 30,000 displaced Iraqis encamped at Badrah, some 60 kilometres north of Al Kut, and the security situation in that area of eastern Iraq, is meeting today (Saturday) with Iranian officials in Ilam, in western Iran, before going into Iraq on Sunday.

The aid officials, including staff from the UN refugee agency, plan to cross into Iraq on Sunday to assess the needs of the tens of thousands of displaced Iraqis currently encamped in Badrah, some 16 kilometres from the border with Iran.

UNHCR staff who met with representatives of the displaced Iraqis on Thursday when they came up to the Iranian border post at Mehran were told that the group had fled Baghdad and Nasiriya earlier this week due to the chaos and lawlessness rampant in the area and fears for their security.

In the meeting with UN refugee agency staff, they said that for the moment they did not intend to flee into Iran, but that they needed relief supplies. Aid was handed over to the group and UNHCR said that the UN would work to address their humanitarian needs.

Depending on Sunday's inter-agency assessment in Badrah, a multi-agency trans-border operation will be leaving Iran for Badrah in the following days to ensure that the displaced Iraqis and their host community have the necessary emergency assistance.

In Jordan, 65 people - both Iraqis and other third country nationals - are encamped in squalid conditions at the border no-man's-land near the Al Karama frontier post.

Seven Iraqis have been encamped at the border for the past several days, including two children who arrived with their father after their mother and one brother were killed during the war. One Iraqi has been stuck at the site for nearly a week, while other people, including a group of more than 50 Iranian adults - both men and women - arrived at the border in more recent days.

Several Palestinians are also at the no-man's-land site waiting to cross into Jordan. Only one person, a Palestinian carrying an Egyptian laissez passer, arrived at Al Karama today (Saturday).

UNHCR has asked the government of Jordan to admit everyone stuck in the no-man's-land and to allow them to get the necessary humanitarian aid at the camps that have been established in Ruwaished. Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency has delivered blankets, stoves and food aid contributed by German Agro Action to the 65 persons encamped in the no-man's-land, where the sanitation situation is rapidly deteriorating.

The Al Karama no-man's-land has some 20 tents set up by UNHCR and the Jordanian Red Crescent, and a UNHCR prefabricated warehouse for temporary shelter.

Some of the recent arrivals are sleeping in their cars, including some of the more than 50 Iranians who have been recognized as refugees by various countries but who now say they want to leave Iraq and return to their countries of asylum.

Only six Iraqi refugees have been admitted to Jordan in the last week, five of whom are at Ruwaished's Red Crescent camp, while one sick woman is in hospital.

In Syria, there are now more than 113 people at UNHCR's El Hol refugee camp in the north-east of the country, including 91 Iraqi refugees who have arrived in Syria over recent days after having fled the war in Iraq. On Friday, a group of more than 30 Iranians, mostly men but also some women, all holding refugee status in various countries, arrived at Syria's Abu Kamal border post, seeking to leave Iraq.

A UNHCR mobile team is at the Abu Kamal border crossing today (Saturday) and is seeking to meet with the group of Iranians.

UNHCR's second mobile team in Syria is setting out for the Al Tanf border on Saturday to check on that border crossing. Several areas of Iraq opposite Syria's border crossings have reportedly been bombed in the last week.