(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Refugees from Iraq prepare for the winter

[Jordan] Life at the Ruwayshid transit camp.
IRIN

Nearly seven months after the war in Iraq ended and little chance of an early return for Iraqi refugees who fled to neighbouring Jordan, they are preparing for the winter.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and NGOs have started preparing the refugee camps for the cold weather, both at Al-Ruwayshid camp, some 350 km east of the capital, Amman, and another camp located some 1,150 km from Amman in no-man's-land on the border with Iraq.

According to UNHCR, there are 1,150 refugees, mostly Iranian Kurds from Al-Tash camp inside Iraq, in the no-man's-land camp, and a further 822 in Al-Ruwayshid, most of whom are Palestinians. Given the ongoing insecurity and instability in Iraq, UNHCR continues to advocate for temporary protection for those who have fled Iraq.

"Winterisation is the issue we have been working on for several months, because there are people still in the camps, both at Al-Ruwayshid and in no-man's land. And we will not be able to find solutions for them outside Jordan before the onset of the winter," the UNHCR representative in Jordan, Sten Bronee, told IRIN in Amman.

"Winterisation means that we will have to renew and strengthen some of the tents, and that we are providing refugees with additional blankets and mattresses," he said.

The staff of one of UNHCR's partners operating in both camps, the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation (JHCO) NGO, are busy trying to complete the winterisation programme.

"We changed the summer tents with the thicker ones, and each tent has a heater inside. We provide plastic covering for the outside of the tents and for the ground. The number of blankets has doubled. Now, each refugee will have four blankets," JHCO's information and public information manager, Muhammad Salim Al-Talib, told IRIN.

"We are talking about approximately 575 family-size tents," he said. In the area where the camps were established the temperature can be warm in the daytime, but drops below zero at night.

Bronee said provision had also been made for specific storm shelters and extra clothing for the refugees. "When the winter sets in you get sand storms. It is very unpleasant," he explained.

The weather can even cause some of the tents to blow away. "The wind is so strong, suddenly you see tents flying all over the place. We are setting up specific assembly areas where women, children and vulnerable people can stay while the storms are raging," he added.

Meanwhile, Al-Talib said the JHCO was also busy moving the camp in no-man's land to a better site with the permission of the Jordanian government. "We are moving the camp from its current place to another place close to the area, but it is higher, and this will mean they are protected from the heavy rains. Otherwise the lives of the refugees will be in danger," he said.

The new camp will be finished in 10 days, whereupon the refugees will be moved there. Bronee added that he believed the UNHCR would receive the full cooperation of the Jordanian government throughout the winter.

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