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UN cites 'alarming' reports of refugees fleeing camp in central Iraq

23 November 2004, UN News Center - The United Nations refugee agency today expressed concern over "alarming" reports that up to a third of the Iranian Kurd refugees at Al Tash camp in Iraq have fled because of the fighting last week around the town of Ramadi.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) does not have any international staff in Iraq and is unable to monitor the situation in the camp, which until recently hosted some 4,200 Iranian Kurd refugees.

But spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva that UNHCR had learned from partners on the ground that 30 per cent to 35 per cent of the refugees had left Al Tash in the past few days and there were sketchy reports that armed fighters attacked the police station inside the camp late last week.

The agency had also been informed that some local services, such as water and electricity, had been suspended and local police had stopped visiting the camp, most likely for security reasons.

"All these elements could have contributed to a feeling of insecurity that may have led some of the refugees to flee," Mr. Redmond said, adding that it was not clear yet where they had gone but were most likely trying to reach northern Iraq or were on their way to the Jordanian border.

Ramadi in is mainly Sunni Muslim central Iraq, not far from the town of Fallujah which fell last week to a United States-led assault.

Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) today again voiced deep concern over the impact the hostilities is having on the overall well-being of Iraq's children. The agency said that in addition to the ongoing difficulties of living amidst daily violence and widespread insecurity, children were also suffering from the inadequacy of basic services such as water and sanitation.

Latest reports are showing that acute malnutrition among young children has nearly doubled since March 2003, the agency added.

... Payvand News - 11/24/04 ... --

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