While over 1,600 third-country nationals (TCNs) have fled to the neighbouring countries of Jordan, Syria and Iran following the start of hostilities 20 days earlier, no TCNs have crossed into Turkey, which shares 331 km of border with Iraq, IRIN learnt on Tuesday.
"For the moment, we have not come across any TCNs," David Coomber, the emergency operations coordinator for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), told IRIN in the eastern Turkish border town of Silopi, noting, however, that IOM was ready to assist and transport TCNs crossing from Iraq to Turkey within the framework of the UN country team.
As part of IOM's regional response to the crisis, the agency provides shelter, medical assessment for travel, and transportation to their home countries of all TCNs in need.
According to the latest figures provided by the agency, of the 1,632 TCNs who fled Iraq, 756 have arrived in Jordan. Of those arriving since 20 March, primarily Sudanese and Egyptians, 512 have left for their countries of origin, with the rest remaining at the Ruwayshid transit camp, a facility administered by the Jordanian Red Crescent and supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and IOM.
Meanwhile, over 200 TCNs of African origin have fled across Iraq's 605-km border with Syria. IOM staff at the Abu Kamal border crossing temporarily withdrew to the town of Dayr al-Zawr on Sunday, after evacuating six TCNs and an Iraqi refugee, following bombardments close to the border. IOM also reported on Sunday that explosions were heard at the Al-Yarubiyah border crossing point. The IOM bus stationed at the border to transport TCNs and refugees fleeing Iraq temporarily withdrew to the transit area three kilometres inside Syria.
To date, IOM Syria has repatriated 178 TCNs since the beginning of the conflict, including 132 Sudanese.
In neighbouring Iran, which shares 1,458 km of border with Iraq, 144 TCNs of Sudanese origin crossed over, and were then successfully flown to the western Iranian city of Kermanshah and onward to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. No new TCNs have arrived in Iran from Iraq over the past week.
Highlighting the IOM's operation, Coomber explained there were some TCNs who may need immediate evacuation to their countries of origin, while others, because of the political situation in their home country, would require temporary asylum. "Some of these cases might be referred to UNHCR [office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees]," he explained, noting that IOM was working closely with UNHCR to determine the status of each potential refugee crossing over from Iraq, which in turn would determine the necessary action to be taken.
Asked why no TCNs had entered Turkey as of yet, Regina Boucault, the IOM chief of mission, told IRIN in the Turkish capital, Ankara, that most of the foreign migrant workers were in central and southern Iraq, and not in the north.
IOM operations in Jordan
"During the 1990/1991 Gulf crisis, most TCNs fled towards Jordan, so I'm not surprised we haven't had any in Turkey. Nonetheless, we need to be prepared for any eventuality," she noted. At that time, she said, IOM had provided assistance to 218,000 people, the vast majority of whom had fled to Jordan. Of this number 7,970 had been repatriated through Turkey, she added.
IOM last week launched a web-based, multimedia reporting system that will enhance delivery of IOM services to TCNs, refugees, asylum seekers and other persons displaced by the conflict in Iraq. The new information system, know as the Collaborative Humanitarian Analysis and Reporting Tool (CHART), provides a window to what is happening on the ground in a given place and time.
[To register for CHART usage see: www.chart.iom.int]
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions