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Iranian-Kurdish refugees put more pressure on UNHCR

AMMAN, 27 Jun 2006 (IRIN) - Two of the 198 Iranian-Kurdish refugees stranded on the Jordan-Iraq border since January 2005 started a 'permanent' hunger strike on Sunday. The move was intended to put more pressure on the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to resettle them all in a third country, according to Khabat Mohammadi, the refugees' spokesperson.

An Iranian-Kurdish refugee at the camp in no-man's-land

This came a week after the entire group of refugees - including women and children - went on a one-day hunger strike on World Refugee Day (20 June) to draw international attention to their request.

The refugees' latest action will once again highlight the difficulties faced by UNHCR's office in Amman in providing medical assistance to the group. According to the agency, the refugees are in an area that is officially neither on Iraqi nor Jordanian territory.

Additionally, because of a lack of security along the Jordan-Iraq border, "access by UNHCR and assistance to the refugees has been sporadic and unreliable", according to a statement released on Monday by UNHCR's office in Jordan.

UNHCR sources said the agency was negotiating with different entities to find the most expedient manner to assist the refugees, especially in terms of providing medical assistance to the two refugees on hunger strike. The agency continued to insist that "resettlement is not a right" and can only be possible in a third country if there is a clear need, no alternative solution in the country of asylum and [is] dependent on an offer from a country willing to resettle the refugees.

The refugees recently rejected an offer by UNHCR to facilitate their return to Iran, their country of origin, because they claim to be political opponents of the government in Tehran. The Jordanian government continues to deny entry to the refugees for fear of a flood of other potential refugees.

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. They remain on the Iraqi side of the border, an area prone to harsh weather conditions.

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 - 6/29/06 ... --

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