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UN Humanitarian Briefing on Iraq

UN Humanitarian Briefing on Iraq

21 April 2003

UN refugee agency (UNHCR) staff working in no man's land at Al Karama reported that another 100 persons had reached the border between late yesterday and this morning, bringing the total number of people in the makeshift encampment on Jordan's frontier to more than 1,050.

Together with the Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organisation and other partners, we are increasing the number of shelters and other basic facilities at the windswept border encampment.

More than half the last day's new arrivals are ethnic Kurds from Iran who fled Al Tash refugee camp, located 120 km west of Baghdad. Large numbers of Palestinians, including a number of men with Jordanian wives, are also stuck in no man's land. Would-be Iraqi refugees and other nationalities are also there, including some persons starting their third week awaiting entry.

Some 500 children are now scampering about no man's land, where a week ago there were only two little Iraqi girls mourning the death of their brother and mother in the war. They are all at great risk due to the proximity of the highway linking Iraq with Jordan.

Among the people stuck on the frontier are a number of medical cases, including paralyzed individuals, some pregnant women, and elderly persons. The oldest individual at the frontier is a woman in her late seventies.

The new arrivals, particularly the Iranians and Palestinians, said they fled Iraq because they were threatened by armed Iraqis and felt unsafe, while others say they left due to the chaos and lawlessness. Still others said they lacked adequate assistance in Iraq, particularly the refugees from Al Tash camp.

It is absolutely incumbent upon the occupying powers to ensure security for civilians inside Iraq and the equitable distribution of aid. We are also requesting the Jordanian government to permit those people in need of temporary protection into our refugee camp at Ruwaished.

Staff from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) are also at the frontier today, registering the Palestinians.