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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

JORDAN: Iraqi refugees face bleak existence

AMMAN, 26 February 2004 (IRIN) - After fleeing the war in Iraq, life has not been easy for the Iraqi refugees who've been staying in the desert area of Jordan over the past 10 months.

Besides experiencing all kind of general problems while living in refugee camps, such as the winter winds and living in tents without proper supplies, some of them have had to face even worse.

Walking around the Al-Ruweished camp, housing some 420 refugees, some 350 km east of Amman and managed by the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation (JHCO), it's clear that life is tough.

Inside five-year-old Malek's tent, which moves dangerously due to strong desert winds, her father Zuheir Salan told IRIN that they had been in the refugee camp for the last 10 months, and during their stay Malek had had two brain operations outside the camp. He was later told that available funds for his daughter had finished, and she was sent back to the refugee camp. He said that the general conditions in the camp worsened her health.

"No, she is not well enough to stay in a refugee camp," Nabeela Sweis, a community service assistant at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told IRIN in Amman.

Nabeela explained that Malek's family case was being considered as an urgent one for a lasting solution in a third country, where they could settle, but the process would take time. "I hope she will be strong enough to wait," Malak's mother told IRIN, almost without any hope in her voice.

A single woman in a refugee camp, Sameeha Nur, 27, has had to face some severe problems too. She said that she was sexually harassed in the camp. "We are aware of her case. She was consulted by the Community Service," Said Al-Omari, a UNHCR protection assistant, told IRIN.

"The security of the camp is the government's responsibility," Dawaree Kanachanaphet, head of the UNHCR office in Al-Ruweished camp, added.

Nasr Batanieh, camp director on behalf of JHCO, explained that they were doing their best in order to provide security, and voiced another concern, saying that the main problem was that the refugees did not know what would happen to them and when, so that they were becoming increasingly nervous and depressed.

Dr Suleiman, who was appointed by the Jordanian Ministry of Health, also told IRIN that many refugees were suffering from depression due to the general camp conditions.

Similar stories were heard at the Al-Karama Refugee Camp, housing 1,161 refugees, approximately 80 km from the Al-Ruweished camp, which was established in no-man's land between the Iraqi and Jordanian borders.

"It is difficult to bring up a child without any hope in the future," a mother at the Al-Karama Camp told IRIN while a strong sandstorm started to make her cough.

Talking on behalf of the Iranian Kurds, who form the majority of the camp's population, 23-year-old Tharwat Bin Ahli said that they felt neglected. He added that they needed additional aid. "We fled from a possible quick death by a bullet, and came here to undergo a slow death", Taleb Waheed, a 35-year-old, Palestinian Iraqi, told IRIN.

However, the manager of Al-Karama camp, Ibrahim Tarabeiyeh, said that all the basic humanitarian needs of the refugees were completely covered, but the refugees were asking for more.

Meanwhile, Jacqueline Parlevliet, a senior protection officer at the UNHCR office in Amman told IRIN that 1,048 Iranian Kurds had already been granted refugee status, under the mandate of UNHCR in Iraq. "They are already refugees. We are not questioning their cases, but we are trying to find which solution-box they would fit in. We can offer these people three options: repatriation to the country where they came from, local integration as we have been discussing with the Kurds in northern Iraq, or asylum in a third country," she explained.

The Jordanian Government has agreed to keep Al-Ruweished camp open until April.


Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Human Rights, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs



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