The United Nations refugee agency today called for cooperation, patience and understanding among all parties involved in finding solutions for the 3,200 Iranian exiles residing in Camp Ashraf in Iraq.
In a news release, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it is currently assessing individual protection needs of former residents of the camp, situated in the north of Baghdad, the capital, in an effort to close the camp peacefully and resolve the situation of its residents.
Camp Ashraf is made up of several thousand Iranian exiles, many of them members of a group known as the People’s Mojahedeen of Iran. In line with a memorandum of understanding signed in December by the UN and the Iraqi Government, some two-thirds of the residents, or nearly 2,000 people, were re-located to a temporary transit location near Baghdad known as Camp Hurriya, where a process to determine refugee status is being carried out by UNHCR. Another 1,286 individuals are still awaiting transfer to the transit centre.
According to the agency, those found to be in need of international protection may have the possibility of being resettled to another country.
“Status determination, however, does not in itself resolve things,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Erika Feller. “It must be accompanied by efforts from all concerned, in good faith and in a spirit of international solidarity, to offer resettlement solutions and, in the interim, to assist people to stay safely and decently until such solutions can be materialized.”
UNHCR called on countries to cooperate by allowing for re-admission of individuals having had previous links with them, or by offering resettlement places or other forms of humanitarian admission. It also said it hoped that the Government of Iraq will maintain the asylum option in Iraq pending realization of solutions for these individuals.
In addition, UNHCR appealed to States for financial support, including for the host country to meet costs associated with transferring, hosting, housing, assisting and processing the cases of these individuals until solutions have been found.