A group of 97 Sudanese refugees, mainly from the strife-torn region of Darfur, who have been stranded in a makeshift camp in the Iraqi desert since 2005, are on their way to Romania, where they hope to be resettled, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today.
The refugees, who fled Sudan in the late 1980s, will be housed in a new Emergency Transit Centre in Timosoara while they wait for their resettlement applications to be processed, UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.
He said the refugees, which include women and children, have had little or no contact with their families in Sudan since they fled. “They fear returning to their country, where they would find themselves in a situation of internal displacement,” he noted.
The refugees suffered abuse, blackmail, eviction and assaults by militias following the fall in 2003 of the Saddam Hussein regime.
“A total of 17 Sudanese were killed between December 2004 and February 2005. Because of this targeting by the insurgent groups, the refugees tried to flee Iraq but were not successful,” said Mr. Redmond.
They became stranded in a camp outside Al Rutbah town, in the Al Anbar desert, some 75 kilometres east of the border between Iraq and Jordan. While there, they were subject to severe weather conditions and harassment by militias.
The group, which is currently in Jordan en route to Romania, will be followed soon by another 42 Sudanese refugees who are expected to leave Iraq next month.
“UNHCR would like to thank the Governments of Jordan and Romania for their cooperation in making this movement possible,” Mr. Redmond stated.