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Iranian-Kurd border refugees reject new proposals

AMMAN, 12 Dec 2006 (IRIN) - Iranian Kurds stuck on the Iraq-Jordan border for nearly two years say they will not leave their make-shift camp until they are resettled to a third country. Some 200 Iranian Kurdish refugees living in deteriorating conditions categorically rejected recent proposals by US-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) to resolve their problem.

One of HRW's proposals was to organise 'go and see visits' to Kawa refugee camp in northern Iraq, where other Iranian Kurdish refugees are currently living - the intention being that the border refugees would move to this officially recognised camp and then have the chance to legitimately seek third-country resettlement.

"There is no need to go visit Kawa refugee camp in Arbil just to see if we like it. Refugees already living there have told us the camp is not what they hoped for, so there is no use for us to go there," Khabat Mohammadi, acting as spokesman of the group, said.

HRW's proposals, included in its latest report on the condition of Iraqi refugees living in Jordan, were aimed at helping the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the refugees get out of the impasse in which both parties have been stuck since the group was denied entrance to Jordan after its arrival at the border.

In its recommendations to UNHCR, HRW suggested to explore "more creative solutions" to resolve the situation of the Iranian Kurds, who live in tents set up by UNHCR and an Iraqi NGO in an area referred to as No Man's Land (NML) on the Iraqi side of the Iraq-Jordan border.

UNHCR welcomed HRW's proposals as they were in line with what they have also been proposing.

In addition to the 'go and see' visits to the Kawa refugee camp, HRW proposed that UNHCR "explore the possibility of establishing a program of eligibility for NML Iranian Kurds with family links or ongoing protection problems in that area to seek resettlement opportunities to Sweden, New Zealand and Ireland after their return to northern Iraq".

The three countries mentioned by HWR have already resettled hundreds of Iranian Kurds from another group of refugees who started fleeing Iraq after the US-led invasion of the country in late 2003 and were allowed to stay at al-Ruweished camp in Jordan, around 70km from the Iraqi border.

The Iranian Kurds at NML refuse to move to northern Iraq arguing that if there is a chance for them to be resettled in a third country from Kawa, then the same chance should apply to where they are now.

Having repeatedly explained that resettlement in a third country is not a "right", UNHCR senior officials say that most of the potential countries for resettlement are of the opinion that since there is a possibility for the group to locally integrate in Iraqi Kurdistan, there is no justification for considering the resettlement of all of its members.

"Moving to Kawa is the only available option for the Iranian Kurd refugees in NML. Only protection cases or close family reunification cases would be considered in case the refugees agree to move to Kurdistan," Janvier De Riedmatten, UNCHR Representative for Iraq, said.

Meanwhile, living conditions for the border refugees are deteriorating with temperatures at night falling to zero degrees. The group currently comprises 57 men, 38 women, 81 children and 18 babies.

The group depends fully on the charity of truck drivers who cross the border on a daily basis, bringing them food, water and petrol to run generators. The refugees say they only have a limited amount of electricity available to run their heaters as the winter gets colder.

The Iranian Kurd 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.

For more than two decades, the al-Tash camp was home to over 12,000 Iranian-Kurdish refugees who fled Iran in the 1980s when Tehran and Baghdad were at war.

After being denied entry to Jordan, they remained on the Iraqi side of the border, an area which is difficult to access for UNHCR and its partners due to security concerns. Now, they refuse to move again unless they are resettled in a third country.

The above article comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006

... Payvand News - 12/13/06 ... --

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