The United Nations and the Government of Iraq signed a memorandum of understanding to relocate thousands of Iranian exiles living in a camp in the north-eastern part of the country.
The agreement establishes that the Government will relocate the residents of Camp New Iraq, formerly known as Camp Ashraf, to a temporary transit location where the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will start a process of refugee status determination, a necessary first step for their resettlement outside Iraq.
The agreement, signed yesterday by Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Martin Kobler and National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Iraq, Faleh Fayad, also states that the UN will provide around the clock monitoring until the process is completed, and that UNHCR will immediately deploy a team at the new location to proceed with the verification of the claims for refugee status it has received.
In addition, the agreement includes “a clear commitment from the Government of Iraq to ensure the safety and security of the residents at the new location,” and to have a liaison officer from the Ministry of Human Rights involved in the relocation, according to a news release issued by UNAMI.
“The memorandum of understanding respects the sovereignty of Iraq and its international humanitarian and human rights obligations and protects the security and rights of the camp''s residents,” Mr. Kobler said, stressing that it was the result of a long process to find a “peaceful and durable solution” to the situation of the residents of the camp.
“I want to make it very clear that this memorandum of understanding is about voluntary relocation and its implementation is based firmly on all sides acting peacefully and in good faith,” Mr. Kobler said. “I also reiterate my call to Members States of the UN to accept the residents of the camp in their countries,” he added.
Situated in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala, the camp houses members of a group known as the People''s Mojahedeen of Iran. Before signing the agreement the Iraqi Government had repeatedly stated its intention to close down the camp by 31 December and to transfer residents to another location until countries willing to accept them for resettlement were found.