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UN: Iraq too volatile for refugee returns

Iraq too volatile for refugee returns, UN agency cautions

Iraqi asylum-seekers should not be forced to return to their country for at least another month because the situation there is too volatile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned today.

The agency cited a dangerous security environment in many parts of the country and a high incidence of violent crime. Iraq's near-total dependence on food aid, coupled with the absence of functioning legal and judicial structures, are also contributing factors.

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers plans to travel to Iraq in mid-July to review the situation in the country during a visit that will also include meetings with officials in Kuwait and Jordan.

There are up to 4 million Iraqis abroad, including some 1 million asylum seekers, refugees and other Iraqis under UNHCR's protection mainly in neighbouring countries. The UN refugee agency believes that of these, some 500,000 may seek to return home with its help once the situation inside Iraq improves.

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