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Iraq: gradual UNHCR return

Briefing notes

Iraq: gradual UNHCR return

2 May 2003

UNHCR is gradually returning its international staff to Iraq as the security situation slowly improves, at least in parts of the country. On Thursday, two UNHCR international staff travelled to Erbil in the Kurdish-controlled north. On Saturday, five more international staff are scheduled to go into southern Iraq from Kuwait. The purpose of these trips is to get a first-hand impression of the situation inside the country, see how pre-war refugees from other countries are faring under the current circumstances and eventually begin some preparations for the repatriation.

Meanwhile in Baghdad, UNHCR local staff have spoken with representatives of the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC) regarding reports of insecurity facing some Palestinians in the Iraqi capital. The PRC said that 250 Palestinian families had left their rented apartments and settled in a makeshift camp close to the PRC's hospital. Apparently they had to leave since the landlords no longer receive the rent that used to be paid by the government. The PRC reported that conditions at the makeshift encampment where these people are sheltered are very poor.

On the Jordanian-Iraqi border, dozens of Iraqis are still stuck in the border zone only metres from the Al Karama border post, waiting to enter the refugee camp at Ruwaished. Some of these people have been there for a month. The area also holds nearly 1,000 other people, mainly Iranian ethnic Kurds from Al Tash camp.

On Wednesday, the Jordanian authorities permitted 14 Iraqis to leave no man's land and enter the Red Crescent's camp for third country nationals. These Iraqis were apparently allowed into Jordan because they carried valid United Arab Emirates residence permits in their passports. Under our 15 April agreement with the Minister of Interior, all Iraqis should be permitted to cross into Jordan for temporary protection in the refugee camp at Ruwaished, but only some of them are actually allowed in.