The United Nations refugee agency expressed concern today about the fate of an estimated 1,800 refugees who have been stranded for seven months in camps near the border between Iraq and Jordan.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was alarmed because conditions are worsening at the camps as winter approaches. The refugees have canvas tents for shelter and will have to rely on simple cooking stoves for warmth during the colder months.
A spokesman for UNHCR, Kris Janowski, told a press briefing in Geneva that the largest group in the camps are Iranian ethnic Kurds who fled the Al Tash refugee camp in Iraq, with Palestinians who lived in exile in Iraq the second biggest group.
Mr. Janowski said the UNHCR is appealing to all concerned parties to find a home for the refugees, who do not want to return to Iraq.
“Jordan has already set a positive example by accepting almost half the original group. Now a solution must be found for the rest...We do not consider Iraq to be conducive for return,” he said.
Many of the 427 Palestinian refugees remaining in UNHCR’s care have expressed a desire to travel to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, or Israel, Mr. Janowski said, adding that the UNHCR was ready to discuss this with Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“We also believe that other states in the region can play a part in helping to find a place for these 427 persons….Resettlement outside the region will be considered if all regional options fail.”