Eight of the 198 Iranian-Kurdish refugees who have been stranded at the Jordan-Iraq border since January 2005 ended their near one-month hunger strike on 21 July. This came a day after a joint team from UNICEF and the Jordanian Ministry of Health (MoH) provided them with medical assistance and promised to visit them again within a month, said the group's spokesperson.
“We finally decided to stop our hunger strike after UNICEF came to assist us medically,” says Khabat Mohammadi, a spokesperson for the refugees. “Also, more foreign journalists called us and promised to help us by reporting about our desperate situation.”
The group of hunger strikers consisted of six men, aged between 20 and 45, and two women, aged 18 and 19. “As the team arrived, one of the men was in very poor condition,” says Maha Homsi, UNICEF Protection Officer. “Because his blood pressure was dropping by the hour, he fainted several times.”
According to a statement released Thursday by UNICEF, the mission’s medical team also examined and vaccinated 193 refugees, including women and children. However, because some children could not be vaccinated during this visit, the UNICEF-MoH team says they will return to the camp within a month.
The Iranian-Kurdish refugees arrived at the border between Iraq and Jordan after fleeing al-Tash refugee camp in Iraq’s western Anbar governorate, following clashes there between insurgents and US forces in January 2005.
Having been denied permission to enter Jordan, however, the refugees have remained on the Iraqi side of the border, an area prone to harsh weather conditions.
The group has systematically refused an offer by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to relocate and join another group of Iranian-Kurdish refugees in Kawa refugee camp, a safer location in northern Iraq’s Arbil governorate.
The refugees have demanded to be resettled in a third country but the UNCHR has repeatedly said that this was not a “right”. According to the agency, refugees can only be resettled in a third country if there is a clear need, if there is no alternative solution in the country of asylum and if the third country is willing to resettle the refugees.
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