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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

JORDAN: Refugees from Iraq resettled

AMMAN, 8 January 2004 (IRIN) - Most of the Sudanese and Somali refugees who fled Iraq this spring as the government fell are now being taken in by the US and Australia.

About 60 people who have been living in dusty tents at Al-Ruwayshid camp in the desert near the Iraq-Jordan border are expected to go to the US, said Jacqueline Parlevliet, senior protection officer at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

“We found solutions for them,” Parlevliet told IRIN in Amman. “They’re refugees under our mandate, and we are obliged to find a place for them.” US officials are working on security clearances for the people, according to Haynes Mahoney, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Jordan.

A special refugee resettlement process is being used to approve this group of people, Mahoney explained.

Last Autumn, the US finally started resettling more than 1,000 Somali Bantus from crowded camps in Kenya after the refugees pleaded for years not to be forced to return to their country. Somalia has been effectively without a government since 1992 when dictator Mohammed Said Barre was overthrown.

Another 20-30 Somalis and Sudanese refugees in the Jordanian camp were not approved for US resettlement, Parlevliet said. Those people have now applied for asylum in Australia or have returned to Iraq. Those who have been approved will also go through cultural training before being sent to live in the US Parlevliet said.

The Jordanian government has agreed to keep the camp open until the end of April. The group of 60 is about one-sixth of the more than 400 people living at Al-Ruwayshid camp. Many of the others are Palestinians who were given housing and other help under former Iraq president Saddam Hussein. When Hussein’s Ba’ath Party regime fell in late April, refugees say their landlords told them to leave.

Another estimated 1,100 refugees, most of them Iranian Kurds, remain in a nearby camp in the “No Man’s Land” between the Iraq and Jordanian borders, according to Parlevliet. That group, also being helped by UNHCR, may be in limbo for a longer period of time, depending on the situation in Iraq. The Kurds lived in Iraq as refugees for 23 years.

“A small number of them may be eligible for resettlement or reintegration, or return to their country, but it’s very hard to give a time frame,” he said. Living conditions at the camp include tents, food, clean water and access to sanitation facilities. Conditions can be unbearable at times, however, with no electricity and stifling heat and dust in the summer and cold and wind in the winter.



Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Human Rights, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs



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