Cablegate: Unhcr Update On Jordan and Iraq

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. SUMMARY: The UNHCR missions for Jordan and Iraq updated
the diplomatic community May 24 on recent refugee
developments in the two countries. In Jordan, UNHCR
acknowledged that return to Iraq is the only option for 314
Iraqi-Palestinians in UNHCR's Ruweished refugee camp, while
the 386 Iraqi-Palestinians previously allowed to leave the
camp and reside indefinitely in Jordan continue to face
difficult socio-economic conditions. UNHCR announced that
268 Iranian Kurds in the no-man's land camp between the Iraqi
and Jordanian border posts have been accepted for
resettlement in Sweden, while another 775 individuals still
await decisions. In Iraq, UNHCR confirmed that the Iranian
Kurd population at Al Tash refugee camp dwindled to 4,500.
1,700 of the camp's original 14,500 residents have
voluntarily relocated to Sulamaniyah in northern Iraq, where
they will receive housing assistance from UNHCR and the
Kurdish Regional Government. Rumors persist that the
remainder of the camp population voluntarily returned to
Iran, but the Iranian Government has not confirmed this.
Also in Iraq, UNHCR has registered 23,000 Palestinian
refugees, most of whom seek protection rather than material
assistance. End summary.


2. (U) UNHCR Jordan Representative Sten Bronee reported that
as of May 23,
390 people remained at UNHCR's Ruweished refugee camp: 314
Iraqi-Palestinians, 11 Iranians who are presumed to be
members of the Mujahadeen e-Khalq (MEK) and 25 rejected
Somali asylum seekers. While UNHCR is not promoting a return
to Iraq for any of these refugees, Bronee acknowledged that
the only real solution for the Palestinians is an eventual
return to Iraq. The Israelis have ruled out the option of
resettlement in Gaza or the West Bank and Palestinian
authorities will not consider the option of resettlement in
third-countries. Some countries have rejected Palestinian
resettlement based on family ties even among those holding
travel documents. For these reasons, UNHCR is facilitating
resettlement for Palestinians who want to return Iraq.
Bronee added that several Palestinians have expressed
interest in returning to Iraq. (Comment: And some already
have returned to Iraq, as the Iraqi-Palestinian camp
population has dropped from the previous total of 348 just
two weeks ago.)

3. (U) Separately, Bronee reported that the 386
Iraqi-Palestinians who were allowed to leave the Ruweished
camp in August 2003 and reside indefinitely in Jordan
continue to face difficult social and economic conditions due
to GOJ limitations on their residency permits. UNHCR and the
donor community, he said, need to look to other means and
measures to support this community. Although UNRWA had
initially promised to include these Palestinian refugees in
its special hardship case program, budget shortfalls have
prevented the agency from assisting this group. UNHCR seeks
USD 60,000 to provide limited cash and food assistance to
this group of Palestinian refugees through the remainder of
2004. (Comment: We recommend PRM consider funding this
project through a special contribution to UNRWA, which could
include the 386 Palestinians in its special hardship
distribution network. Bronee told refcoord he would welcome
such a funding mechanism, as UNHCR does not have an
assistance distribution network in place for its urban
refugee caseload.)


4. (U) 23,000 Palestinians in Iraq have registered with UNHCR
since May 2003, the vast majority from Baghdad. UNHCR said
that most of the Palestinians registered to obtain protection
and not material assistance. Through work with the Iraqi
Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MDM), there is an
agreement to move the 35 remaining displaced Palestinian
families in Baghdad into apartments. UNHCR discussed the
construction of a Palestinian complex for reintegration with
the MDM and Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, but no
decision will be made until after June 30. Some NGOs have
expressed interest in constructing the complex.


5. (U) UNHCR Assistant Head of Mission for Iraq Abdi Osman
confirmed that approximately 4,500 Iranian Kurds (of the
original population of 14,000) remain at the Al-Tash refugee
camp outside Ramadi, Iraq. UNHCR and ICRC are coordinating
with Italian NGO Inter SOS to provide basic services and
protection to the refugees remaining in Al Tash camp. 1,700
Iranian Kurds left the Al-Tash refugee camp during the last
year and now reside in Sulaymaniyeh. UNHCR and Kurdish
Regional Government (KRG) authorities have agreed to
establish housing for these refugees at the Bareeqa complex.
However, the requisite infrastructure and services are not
yet in place. Although rumors persist of Al Tash Kurds
having repatriated to Iran, the Iranian government has not
confirmed this to UNHCR.

6. (U) Separately, 1,043 Iranian Kurds from Al Tash camp
remain in no-man's land between the Jordanian and Iraqi
border posts. UNHCR reported that 286 individuals have been
accepted for resettlement in Sweden, while another 775 await
decisions from resettlement countries.

7. (U) Baghdad minimize considered.

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