After their 12-hour overnight bus journey, the returnees, who included four Iraqi women married to Egyptian men, were met by IOM officials in Aqaba and provided with tickets for the 1.5-hour high-speed ferry trip to Nuweiba in Egypt.
On arrival in Nuweiba at 1.30 pm this afternoon, the group was met by the Egyptian authorities, who will arrange onward transport to their homes.
IOM believes that Egyptians may eventually constitute the largest group of third country nationals fleeing Iraq across the Karama border into Jordan. An IOM contingency plan, developed with the Jordanian military and the Jordanian Red Crescent, suggested that there may be as many as 50,000 Egyptians working in Iraq, many of whom may flee to Jordan, if the conflict intensifies.
Under the IOM plan, Egyptians, like other nationalities, are picked up by IOM buses at the border, provided with food and water, and moved the 50kms to the Ruweished transit camp. In the camp, they are registered and medically screened by IOM as quickly as possible, before rejoining buses to Aqaba.
The IOM buses, which have medical staff and toilets on board, travel non-stop on public and military roads to Aqaba through the night, and are accompanied by police escorts.
For other third country nationals, IOM arranges flights home from Amman. Last night at midnight the first 147 Sudanese left Amman for Khartoum aboard an IOM-chartered Royal Jordanian Airways Airbus A-320.
They included a large number of families with children and a number of students. An IOM doctor travelled with the group, which included a 7-year old boy with a broken leg and an elderly man who had suffered a stroke in Ruweished.
The departure of the Egyptians and the Sudanese from the camp, which is run by the Jordanian Red Crescent, with the support of the International Federation and IOM, leaves a population of about 300. They include 229 Sudanese, many of whom refused to fly to Sudan yesterday on the grounds that they faced persecution if they returned home.
The group met with the Sudanese Ambassador today and, following his assurances, agreed to return to Sudan tomorrow. They will board IOM buses to Amman tomorrow morning and fly home on a second IOM-chartered Royal Jordanian Airways flight to Khartoum tomorrow evening.
A similar problem with 40 Somalis who refuse to return home has yet to be resolved. Other nationalities represented in the camp include Yemenis, Eritreans, Malians, Chadians and one Djiboutian.
Conditions in the camp, which suffers from cold night temperatures and high winds, are extremely basic. While tents, food, water, kerosene lamps and some medical services are provided, there is still no electricity.
IOM is urgently appealing to donor governments for funds to support its work in the region. Its mandate includes transport for refugees and third country nationals to transit camps in countries bordering Iraq; repatriation for third country nationals; and coordination of relief efforts for displaced people inside Iraq as soon as access becomes possible.
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