AMMAN, 5 Jul 2006 (IRIN) - A tense situation is unfolding at the Jordan/Iraqi border. Jordanian border officials claim that the 198 Iranian-Kurdish refugees who have been stranded there since the beginning of 2005 have been antagonising them in recent weeks.
"The refugees have been provoking us by demonstrating on the Jordanian side of the border. This is illegal," says a Jordanian officer at the Karama border post who prefers to remain anonymous. The refugees, who have been refused entry into Jordan, have been protesting at the border demanding resettlement to a third country.
According to reports by the Multinational Forces (MNF) who monitor the Iraqi side of the border, the latest incident occurred on Monday evening when the refugees threw stones at Jordanian border officials. This was in reaction to the officers having demolished tents that the refugees had set up a few metres into Jordan in order to shelter themselves from the sun during their daily protest sit-ins.
According to MNF sources and refugees' testimonies given to IRIN, a couple of shots were fired to disperse the crowd. However, neither the MNF nor the refugees could say who fired the shots. No injuries or detentions were reported.
Jordanian and Iraqi border officers deny any firing. "No one fired any shots. We just brought down the tents because they were on Jordan's soil and, therefore, it was illegal," says Colonel Wawdah Wahbe, who is stationed at the Karama border post.
Meanwhile, the health of two refugees who have been on a hunger strike for 11 days is getting worse, says Khabat Mohammadi, a spokesperson for the refugees. And since 2 July, four other members of the group have joined the hunger strike.
On 30 June, the UNHCR offered assistance to those refusing to eat and others suffering from dehydration, including women and children. "Despite their dramatic situation, refugees initially refused our assistance, putting the lives of women and children in great danger," says Michelle Alfaro, UNHCR's protection officer dealing with Iraq from Amman.
"We refused medical assistance because it does not resolve our real problem which is to be resettled in a third country," counters Mohammadi.
However, two young girls suffering from dehydration finally received assistance from the MNF at the Iraqi checkpoint, according to a UNCHR officer who visited the camp on Monday.
The Iranian-Kurdish refugees arrived at the Karama border crossing between Jordan and Iraq after fleeing al-Tash refugee camp in Iraq's western Anbar governorate following clashes there between insurgents and US forces in January 2005.
However, because they were denied permission to enter Jordan, the refugees remained on the Iraqi side of the border, an area prone to harsh weather conditions. The group have systematically refused an offer by UNCHR to relocate and join another group of Iranian Kurds in Kawa refugee camp, a safer location in northern Iraq's Arbil governorate.
The UNHCR says that resettlement in a third country is only possible when there is a clear need, no alternative solution in the country of asylum and is dependent on an offer from a resettlement country.
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