The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is helping hundreds of exiled Iraqis return from Iran to their home country, a spokesman for the agency said on December 16, 2003.
Some 500 Iraqi refugees have returned to Iraq this week in convoys facilitated by UNHCR. "Most were going home to Basra, while others were headed for Karbala and Najaf," spokesman Kris Janowski told the press in Geneva.
Meanwhile, another convoy of 254 refugees from the 1991 Persian Gulf war have just returned to Iraq from Saudi Arabia. Over 4,000 have already left the Rafha camp there while about 1,000 remain.
All the returning refugees are met by UNHCR national staff upon their arrival and given various assistance items as well as tents if they require emergency shelter. To accommodate the flow, the agency has been shifting its stockpiles from Iran to southern Iraq.
"Among the goods delivered to Iraq this week were 1,000 tents, 500 plastic tarpaulins, 6,000 blankets, 1,200 cooking and heating stoves, 2,000 kitchen sets and 6,000 jerry cans," Mr. Janowski said.
For the last 20 years, Iran has sheltered an estimated 200,000 Iraqi refugees who fled during the Iran-Iraq war, with most living among Iranian host communities and only 48,000 in camps.
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