UN refugee agency to re-establish international presence in Baghdad
To better serve the urgent needs of the 2 million Iraqis who have fled their home regions to other areas of the violence-torn country, the United Nations refugee agency has decided to again station international officials in Baghdad, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres said today.
“All of the international staff is now concentrated in Amman, Jordan, and of course this is not the best possible way to do it,” Mr. Guterres told reporters at a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York.
Most international UN staff was withdrawn from the strife-torn country after the 2003 bombing of the Organization’s Baghdad headquarters, which killed 22 people, including top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Currently only Iraqi nationals staff the UNHCR office in the capital city, curtailing operations, according to Mr. Guterres. “It is especially important to establish an international presence in Baghdad for negotiations with the Government,” he said.
International staff in the city will at first be limited to one person, but will increase as security conditions and other considerations allow, he added.
Also at today’s press conference, Mr. Guterres briefed reporters on the results of a conference held in Geneva last month that was organized by UNHCR to focus on the plight of internally displaced Iraqis as well as the estimated 2 million refugees who have sought haven in neighbouring countries.
In recapping the results of that conference, he stressed the importance of cooperation between the Government of Iraq and the major host countries for the refugees, Syria and Jordan. He also highlighted the need for the international community to continue to support refugee assistance efforts.