Officials from the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday they were confident about the resettlement of 119 refugees from Iraq who are in Ruweished refugee camp, 50 km from the Jordanian-Iraqi border, after 49 Palestinians left the tent camp for Canada last month.
"UNHCR will aggressively look for resettlement opportunities for the refugees in Ruweished and once that has been achieved the camp will be closed permanently," said Rana Sweis, Public Information Assistant at UNHCR, Jordan.
The UNHCR representative in Amman, Robert Breen, would not say which countries it was in contact with or at what stage negotiations were, but confirmed it would not "spare any effort before all refugees are resettled. We are in contact with a number of host countries to have all refugees settled. I am full of hope these people will get a decent place to move to," said Breen.
Jordanian officials gave the UN agency until January to find a permanent solution and close the camp. But with the failure to settle the remaining people, Jordan assured UN officials that the camp would remain open until a solution was found.
Jordan was the first neighbouring country to open its borders to refugees from Iraq for humanitarian reasons, but the government was adamant they would not be allowed to stay permanently. Jordanian authorities agreed to provide temporary shelter, initially for three months, which have stretched into nearly four years.
In the early days of the Iraqi war, the refugee camp sheltered about 2,000 Palestinians, Iranians, Kurds, Sudanese, Algerians and many others. The majority were resettled in Canada, New Zealand, Australia or the US. At present, 119 refugees remain in the camp, 97 of whom are Palestinians and the rest mostly Iraqis and Iranians.
The camp is run by the Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organisation, a charity group affiliated with the Jordanian government. UNHCR provides food and other necessities; Jordan manages the camp, keeping law and order and providing medical services.
Breen said the UN agency was also exploring options to have the refugees relocated in Jordan in a "less hostile environment. The refugees continue to suffer from extreme cold in winter and extreme heat in summer; the real solution is to have them moved to a third country, but in the meantime we want to make their life better."
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