11 November 2005 (UN News Center) - The United Nations refugee agency has begun re-housing the last 2,000 Iranian Kurds remaining in a decades-old camp in the violence-torn Fallujah region of Iraq, transferring then to a safer location in the country's northern Kurdish area.
Al Tash camp in central Iraq was home for more than two decades to over 12,000 Iranian Kurdish refugees who fled Iran in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, security rapidly deteriorated and more and more refugees decided to leave to return home or look for a more secure existence elsewhere.
Located 60 kilometres from Fallujah and 12 kilometres from Ramadi, both violence-ridden cities, Al Tash was badly affected by the heavy fighting in 2004, and by February this year its population had dwindled to less than 5,000, with more and more residents looking for a way out.
As a result of the continuing dire security situation, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Kurdistan Regional Government signed an agreement in September for the construction of semi-permanent housing for more than 2,000 people from Al Tash in Kawa, 35 kilometres south of main Kurdish city of Erbil.
On Wednesday UNHCR and its non-governmental organization (NGO) partner Qandil started registering and installing the first group of nearly 500 people in Kawa in tents while, with the help of expert advisers, they set about constructing semi-permanent homes on the site.
"We are very happy and relieved that the Al Tash refugees can now start moving to a safer location, as life has been very difficult and dangerous for them," Walpurga Englbrecht, the officer in charge of UNHCR's Iraq operation from Amman in neighbouring Jordan, said. "UNHCR is assisting the refugees with the relocation and will provide them with support on the ground, reinstallation allowances, as well as school and health care."
The last 1,500 Iranian Kurds still residing in Al Tash, are scheduled to start moving to Kawa later this month.
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