JORDAN -Evacuation of third country nationals begins - A first group of some 150 Sudanese nationals scheduled to leave from Amman later today on the first IOM chartered flight have boarded IOM buses in Ruweishid camp this morning. Another 150 Sudanese nationals who were scheduled to leave the camp have told an IOM officer that they fear persecution should they return home and are not moving from the camp.
Last night, a group of 120 persons who had arrived at the border, were taken by four IOM buses to Ruweishid camp. IOM staff are this morning registering them to determine their nationalities in order to arrange their return home.
IOM's José Remigio, in charge of operation in Ruweishid said, "We have people arriving constantly at the border. It's non-stop."
IOM has a fleet of buses on stand by at the border to take people to the Ruweished camp. Other buses are on stand by to transport people to Amman, some 350 kilometers away. In Amman, an IOM chartered plane stands ready to return Sudanese nationals who might want to go home.
IOM staff in Ruweishid camp have set up medical facilities to carry out medical examinations to ensure that all who will be evacuated are fit to travel. IOM has two doctors and four nurses in the camp; they report that most of those people they have examined so far are suffering from respiratory infections.
Since Wednesday, IOM buses have transported some 470 third country nationals, mostly Sudanese, Egyptians, Yemenis, Somalis, Chadians and Eritreans from the Jordanian side of the Iraqi border to the Ruweished camp.
A group of some 150 Jordanian students also travelled with IOM buses to Ruweished, where they picked up public transportation.
The Ruweished camp for Third Country Nationals was set up by the Jordanian Red Crescent with the support of IOM and the International Federation of the Red Crescent / Red Cross. A second nearby camp, run by the Hashemite Charitable Society and UNHCR, is scheduled to start receiving Iraqi refugees today.
IOM is putting in place logistics to assist Egyptians who may cross into Jordan in the following hours. As per IOM's contingency plan, developed with the Jordanian military and the Jordanian Red Crescent, the Egyptians will be taken by bus from Ruweished to Aqaba on the Red Sea. In Aqaba, where IOM has an office in the port, they will board an IOM-chartered ferry for the three-hour journey to Egypt. In Egypt they will be met by the Egyptian authorities and provided with onward transport to their homes.
In Syria, IOM operations staff were deployed to Hassake and Abu Kamal today. It is not yet clear whether Syria's borders will be open to people fleeing Iraq, but it is believed that the border will be open to TCNs. It is also not yet clear where TCNs would stay pending their departure to their home countries with IOM, probably by air from Damascus. A UNHCR transit camp at El Hol, originally intended for both refugees and TCNs, is reportedly now ready to receive up to 10,000 people. A second camp, run by the Syrian Red Crescent, and exclusively for TCNs, is also under discussion.
In Iran, the other country likely to attract a significant outflow of people, refugees and TCNs crossing the border will be brought to transit camps by the Iranian immigration dept. IOM will identify TCNs in the camps and provide onward air transport to their home countries from Tehran.
IOM also has operations staff on standby in Kuwait, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but due to the direction of the war, it is not expected the outflow of people across these borders will be much smaller than into the countries listed above.
AFGHANISTAN - Internally Displaced Persons Return Home - This week, IOM Herat provided return assistance to more than 1,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who were living in Maslakh and Shaidayee camps in Western Afghanistan.
This was the largest group to return home since IOM restarted its daily transport assistance in February, after the winter months. The families returned to their villages of origin in Qala-e-Naw, Muqur, Darai Bum, Sang Atish, Qadis and Jawand districts of Badghis province. IOM officers, including medical staff escorted the 28-truck convoy.
IOM officers in Maslakh and Shaidayee camps register the families who want to return home. IOM then schedules the registered IDPs for travel as per their destination. The persons are advised three days before departure of the travel date so they can pack and get ready for the journey home. On departure day, IOM staff conduct medical checks to assess travel fitness and each family receives a return assistance package of food and non-food items.
Additionally each IDP receives as a transportation grant of US$7 to help them transport their belongings from a transit centre in their district to their villages of origin, where IOM vehicles cannot reach.
Returns are expected to pick up in the coming weeks. $Since the beginning of the year, the IOM office in Herat has assisted a total of 6,158 IDPs (1,477 families) of a total estimated internally displaced population of some 65,000.
Starting on 27 March, IOM, UNHCR and the Ministry for Refugees and Repatriation will conduct a joint registration exercise in the Northern Provinces Takhar, Jawzjan, Sari Pul, Faryab, Balkh Samangan, Baghlan, Kunduz and Badkhshan. The estimated 45,000 IDPs will be registered by 76 registration teams.
IDP representatives, community members and women will be provided with updated information on the areas of return so they can make an informed decision about their voluntary return home.
In 2003, IOM has been tasked with registration, return and initial reintegration support for IDPs in the North, West and Central regions of Afghanistan. The estimated number of beneficiaries is 100,000. So far this year funding has been received from Finland, Norway and ECHO.
For more information, please contact: Julia Hartlieb, IOM Kabul Mobile: 0093 70 278 817