Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Iranian refugees stuck in state of limbo along Iraqi-Jordanian border

For the past two years a group of Iranian Kurds has been living in al-Karama, a makeshift refugee camp inside Iraq at the border with Jordan, hoping for third-country resettlement, according to a Voice of America report Monday. The group of 200, some of whom have been refugees for decades, fled in 2005 from al-Tash refugee camp in Anbar province due to violence but were denied entry to Jordan. The Jordanian government, according to published reports, fears a flood of refugees will result if the Iranian Kurds are granted visas.

In recent months the refugees have even resorted to demonstrations and hunger strikes to try and elicit help from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other organizations. An UNHCR official in Amman says there is little the agency can do to help the group, commenting, “We have been in touch with the Jordanian authorities. They were denied entry. And where they are currently, in the no man's land, it is very difficult for UNHCR to actually provide effective protection and assistance.” UNHCR did offer to relocate the group to the Kaveh refugee camp in northern Iraq; however, the group denied the offer, seeing it as a step away from their desired third country relocation.

Other avenues of assistance have proven fruitless to date. The Swedish Embassy in Amman has granted visas to 500 other Iranian Kurds, but can do nothing for this group until Jordan grants them asylum. The Jordanian Relief Agency has evaluated the living conditions in the camp. Iraqi troops even have offered limited medical assistance to sick toddlers. The U.S. State Department is also aware of the group and claims to be working with UNHCR, Iraq and Jordan on the issue.

The sense of desperation among group members is readily evident, as one refugee recalls, “I have (lived) three generations as a refugee in Iraq. My father came to Iraq as a young man and died here. I was only a kid. Now I am an old man. This is my son, he has not been schooled. Why should it be this way?"

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