(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Border remains quiet

Country Map - Jordan.
IRIN

The situation at Jordan's Al-Karamah border crossing remained quiet on Sunday, with no Iraqi refugee arrivals, but several dozen third country nationals (TCNs), including 25 Somalis and eight South African "human shields" having arrived on Saturday evening, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reported to a news conference in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

The Somalis had been studying at the universities of Mosul and Baghdad, and are being sheltered at the Ruwayshid TCN camp, located in the desert some 50 km from the Iraqi border and 350 km from Amman. It is run by the Jordanian Red Crescent Society (JRCS) and IOM.

As for the South Africans, they were due to be collected from the camp by South African embassy officials on Sunday, said the IOM spokesman, Christopher Lom.

Meanwhile, 24 individuals (two families and two single men) were waiting for their cases to be resolved at the holding centre on the Jordanian border, UNHCR reported. Ten JRCS tents are at the site, with additional tents, food, blankets and stoves having been delivered recently. The
UNHCR spokesman, Peter Kessler, said the refugee agency's legal officers were working with Jordanian authorities to resolve their status.

Asked why refugee flows had not yet become as heavy as had been expected by many, Kessler noted that Iraqis' means of transport were limited, not only due to insecurity but to lack of money resulting from the war with Iran in the 1980s, the Gulf War of 1991, and the sanctions imposed on Iraq thereafter.

"People seem to be sticking close to their communities," Kessler said, alluding to the dependence of most Iraqis on remaining food rations supplied to them under the now-suspended Oil-for-Food-Programme.

Kessler had previously cautioned that "these are early days of the conflict, we were never expecting large initial numbers of refugee arrivals".

Jordan hosted more than one million people in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, and the Kingdom currently hosts some 300,000 Iraqis.

In related news, IOM reported that a second group of some 150 Sudanese nationals had left the Ruwayshid transit camp on Sunday aboard a fleet of IOM buses, following a first group of 140 Sudanese who had left on Friday. They were scheduled to fly out of Amman to Khartoum on an IOM-chartered Royal Jordanian Airways aircraft at 23:00 local time on Sunday.

The group includes many Sudanese who initially refused to leave the camp, fearing persecution if they returned home. Following a meeting on Saturday with Sudanese embassy officials, however, most agreed to leave in return for assurances for their safety. IOM medical staff screened the group before departure to ensure that they were fit to travel.

With the departure of the Sudanese, as well as 11 Egyptians scheduled to leave for the Jordanian port of Aqabah on Sunday, the TCN camp population now stands at less than 100. Other nationalities still represented in the camp include Sudanese, Malians, Eritreans, and Djiboutians.

By 15:00 local time, there had been no new arrivals, and the border was reported by both UNHCR and IOM to be quiet.

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