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UN Humanitarian Briefing on Iraq

UN Humanitarian Briefing on Iraq

23 March 2003

Fourteen Iraqi refugees arrived in Syria today at the Al Yarubiyah crossing point, north-west of Mosul. They have been taken to our camp at El Hol. These are our first arrivals from Iraq since fighting began last week.

On Saturday, our representative in Syria reached an agreement with the Governor of Hasakah Province on the establishment of a refugee camp at the Al Yarubiyah border crossing, and for a second facility at Al Tanf. Work on these newly approved camps will begin this week. Due to recent military activity around Mosul and Kirkuk, it was important to open a site at Al Yarubiyah so that we would be in position to help any Iraqis leaving the north.

Al Yarubiyah is about 100 kilometres from UNHCR's long-time refugee camp at El Hol. El Hol camp was first erected in 1991, and still shelters three Iraqi families who arrived 12 years ago and who never repatriated. In recent weeks El Hol camp has been enlarged with additional water and sanitation facilities, and we've put up 340 tents. We have stocked supplies of tents, plastic tarpaulins, blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets, stoves, lanterns and other items for up to 5,000 people at El Hol. Additional aid supplies are available at our regional warehouses in Jordan and Turkey. WFP has food aid available.

Along Syria's border with Iraq, we now have two mobile teams visiting border crossings. In addition to our staff at Al Yarubiyah, we've had a second team monitoring the Al Tanf crossing since Saturday. In recent days some Third Country Nationals (TCNs) from Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen have crossed at the central Abu Kamal border.

In Turkey, UNHCR now has three mobile teams operating in the south-east, with two covering the western sector around Silopi, which remains calm. Our third mobile team covering Turkey's eastern border with Iraq plans to visit Cukurca on Monday. Cukurca is Turkey's second main entry point from Iraq; it saw many refugee arrivals during the exodus 12 years ago. Despite reports of population displacement in the north of Iraq, Iraqis have so far not approached that frontier - people seem to be sticking close to their communities.

Today, UNHCR sent an eight-truck convoy from our regional warehouse at Iskenderun, Turkey, to the Turkish Red Crescent warehouse in Silopi. Carrying mattresses, these trucks are expected to reach Silopi on Monday. Iskenderun is one of our three main regional stockpiles - the others are at Aqaba, Jordan, and Ahwaz, Iran.

In Turkey, we have 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 in our stockpile at Iskenderun. These supplies can be shifted into Syria.

The situation at Jordan's Al Karama border remains quiet. Our staff are checking the frontier continuously, chasing up rumours of new population movements. There have been no refugee arrivals.

Late last evening, 25 Somalis studying at the universities of Mosul and Baghdad were allowed into Jordan and are currently sheltered at the International Organization for Migration's TCN camp. Twenty-four individuals (two families and two single men) are waiting for their cases to be resolved at the holding centre on the border. The Jordanian Red Crescent has erected 10 tents at the border, and we've delivered ten additional tents, as well as food, blankets and stoves. UNHCR legal officers are working with the Jordanian authorities to resolve their status.

UNHCR's staff in Iran are continuously reviewing the situation along the border in order to respond to any developments that may arise. So far, everything along Iraq's eastern border is quiet.