UNHCR watching borders closely amid population movements in Iraq
AMMAN, Jordan, March 25 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency has been watching Iraq's borders following reports of population movements within the country, but no new Iraqi refugees have arrived in Iraq's neighbouring countries since a first group of 14 arrived in Syria on Sunday.
Recent reports of population movements within Iraq have prompted UNHCR to monitor the frontiers closely for a possible outflow. In the last few days, more than 22,000 Iraqis have reportedly moved to the northern Iraqi town of Panjwin, close to the Iranian border province of Kurdistan. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), these people had moved as a precautionary measure and have no immediate plans of crossing into Iran.
Continuing fighting in the southern Iraqi city of Basra has also put UNHCR's mobile teams in Ahwaz, south-western Iran, on the alert for possible refugees.
In Turkey, three UNHCR mobile teams are in the south-east of the country monitoring the border with northern Iraq, where there have been reports of internal displacement. One team is in Uludere while two others were heading to Cukurce on Tuesday. This snowy mountainous region is where some 500,000 Iraqis arrived in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War.
En route to Cukurce, one of the teams was caught between two avalanches and was spending Tuesday night on a mountain highway. They were in radio contact and reported that they were unhurt.
UNHCR's mobile teams have also been watching Jordan's Al Karama border crossing and Syria's main crossing points at Al Yarubiyah, Al Tanf and Abu Kamal. A refugee reception centre at Al Yarubiyah has been completed while work has started on two refugee camps at Al Tanf and Abu Kamal.
The first group of 14 Iraqi refugees who arrived in Syria on Sunday has been allowed to leave El Hol camp to stay with their relatives in the country.
Meanwhile, relief items continue to arrive in the region to cope with a possible Iraqi refugee situation. Over the weekend, Russian aid agency EMERCOM sent four planeloads of emergency supplies - including tents, stoves, generators, water filters, blankets and dried food - to a warehouse in Kermanshah, Iran.
On Monday, UNHCR's first batch of relief items - 8,000 mattresses - arrived at the Turkish Red Crescent Society's warehouse in the Turkish border town of Silopi from the refugee agency's regional stockpile in Iskenderun.