Refugees on Jordanian border in poor conditions, UNHCR says

[Jordan] Iranian Kurds wait anxiously at the airport on their way to Sweden.
Some 300 Iranian Kurdish refugees have been resettled in Sweden. (IRIN)

A group of Iranian Kurdish refugees that recently arrived at the Iraq-Jordan border, living in harsh desert-like conditions, have received some aid following calls from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

There were serious concerns over the welfare of pregnant
women, children and sick people among the refugees.

"Conditions are atrocious really and there are no facilities. There are scorpions and obviously it is even worse for the vulnerable groups," a spokeswoman for the UNHCR in Geneva, Marie-Helene Verney, told IRIN.

With temperatures dropping to minus zero, the refugees have been forced to sleep out in the open since mid January. The Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organisation delivered UNHCR-provided food, plastic sheeting, mattresses, blankets and jerry cans to the refugees who had arrived at the border in three batches over the past four weeks.

The group of 102 Iranian Kurds, who arrived from the Al-Tash camp west of Baghdad, are stuck on the Iraqi side of the border after not being given permission to enter Jordan.

Verney said that the refugees had left the camp due to fighting in the nearby city of Fallujah where US troops had been trying to flush out insurgents since November 2004. While some went to the north of Iraq, others ade a perilous journey to the border with Jordan. "It is quite hard for us to monitor movements of refugees due to insecurity," she explained.

Most international aid workers have left Iraq as security deteriorated.

Al-Tash was established more than 20 years ago and is currently housing some 5,000 Iranian Kurds who fled Iran during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. There were 10,000 to 12,000 refugees there before the 2003 conflict.

It is thought that the group of 102 were trying to join another 660 refugees, mostly Iranian Kurds, living on the other side of the border in no-man's-land, in a camp set up after the US-led war in Iraq started in 2003 and they fled the country.

"We have been trying for a year and a half to find a solution for them. Some 300 refugees from no-man's-land have gone to Sweden and we have been asking for resettlement for them and are still trying," the UNHCR spokeswoman added.

The refugee agency is trying to confirm reports of more arrivals at the border, possibly expanding the group to 115 refugees.

The insecurity in this part of Iraq has meant that UNHCR, its partners and the government have been limited in their ability to respond to the refugees' needs.

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:

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