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IOM press briefing notes 7 Mar 2003: Middle East - Contingency planning for a possible Iraq crisis

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Spokesperson: Niurka Piñeiro
MIDDLE EAST - Contingency Planning for a Possible Iraq Crisis - IOM has now raised US$1.2 million of the US$1.9 million that it needs for the preparatory phase of its contingency plan for a possible war in Iraq.

The money, from Switzerland, the UK and the US, is being used to build the capacity of IOM offices in Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Egypt and Cyprus to cope with a possible outflow of some 275,000 people. A small team of IOM specialist staff, including security, medical, communications and logistics experts has already been deployed to the region.

Under the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)'s overall contingency plan, IOM's responsibilities include:

  • Support and return transportation to their home countries for up to 70,000 third country nationals (TCNs) fleeing Iraq into neighbouring countries. Most of them are expected to exit via Jordan, and to return to Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea.

  • TCN transit facilities in neighbouring countries.

  • Transportation for some 205,000 refugees and asylum seekers from border areas to designated camps in neighbouring countries.
Preparations underway in the region include the drawing up of detailed operational plans to receive displaced people and to either return them to their home countries, or transport them to safe temporary locations.

The planning phase, which is in close cooperation with other humanitarian agencies, includes contracting local land, sea and air transport; identifying and hiring local operational and medical staff to receive and escort IOM's potential caseload; and putting in place the necessary infrastructure and communications to manage the operation.

In Jordan, IOM has set up an office at Ruwayshid near the Iraqi border, which will be fully operational by Monday. Its main role will be to liaise between IOM, the Jordanian Red Crescent Society, the local authorities and other agencies, in the event of a conflict. A second office is planned for the Red Sea port of Aqaba - the main exit point for Egyptians and other TCNs leaving the country.

In Silopi, on Turkey's southeastern border with Iraq, IOM plans to coordinate its operations from a building shared with other UN agencies. In Iran, IOM plans to deploy operations officers to the western city of Kermanshah. In Syria, IOM is working closely with UN and other agencies to identify facilities equipped to receive people fleeing Iraq, in the event of war.

The cost of an IOM operation involving, if necessary, the movement of up to 275,000 people, would total some US$26 million over six months, including the US$1.9 million preparatory phase. IOM is currently briefing potential donors.

For further information contact: Jan de Wilde, Tel. +41.79 2500228.

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