Despite security concerns, refugees continue to return to Iraq from neighbouring countries ahead of the transfer of power at the end of the month to the Iraqi Interim Government, the United Nations refugee agency said today.
A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the agency is not encouraging Iraqis to return, but is facilitating convoys in cooperation with the Iraqi authorities for those who wish to return home.
According to spokesman Kris Janowski, more than 350 Iraqis returned in June to Basra, in southern Iraq, in two separate convoys from Iran, bringing to some 11,500 the total number of returnees. Most have been coming from Iran, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.
Elsewhere in the region, 170 Palestinians who fled Iraq last year have now left the Jordanian border and returned to Baghdad, Mr. Janowski told a press briefing in Geneva. “The refugees said they had given up hope of finding a new home in the Middle East and preferred to return to Baghdad. UNHCR is providing all the returnees with transport assistance and various relief items,” he said.
In Baghdad UNHCR is helping 450 Palestinian families with rental support, medical care and other relief items, and is relocating Palestinian families who had been forced out of their homes a year ago, the spokesman added. “Last year, we registered some 23,000 Palestinians in Baghdad but the total number in the Iraqi capital is estimated at around 30,000,” he said.