Iraq + 2 more

IOM press briefing note 23 Mar 2003

SYRIA - IOM Repatriates Moroccans Fleeing Iraq - A group of 28 Moroccans fleeing Iraq left Damascus for Casablanca this morning with IOM aboard a Syrian Airways flight.
The group, which included 14 children and infants, arrived at the Moroccan embassy in Damascus on March 19th. It was the first indication that significant numbers of third country nationals (TCNs) fleeing Iraq are now entering Syria.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that a large number of Yemenis who entered Syria through Yarubiya may now be stranded in the town of Hassake.

IOM Damascus today deployed operations staff to Hassake, and to Tanf, Abu Kamal and Yarubiya on the Iraqi border. Each location will be equipped with transit areas to receive TCNs and refugees or asylum seekers who cross the border from Iraq.

Subsequently IOM will move them to the 12,000-capacity El Hol refugee camp, where TCNs will be supported by IOM and the IFRC in a separate part of the camp.

In the camp, IOM doctors will screen TCNs to ensure that they are fit for onward travel to their home countries. IOM will arrange their flights home from Damascus as quickly as possible.

In Damascus, UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, has agreed to house TCNs departing with IOM in the UNWRA compound. Several of the Moroccan families stayed in the facility. Four more Moroccans and one Eritrean are scheduled to fly home with IOM within the next two days.

JORDAN - Sudanese Fleeing Iraq Fly Home - A second group of some 150 Sudanese left the Ruweished transit camp near the Iraqi border this afternoon aboard a fleet of IOM buses.

They are scheduled to fly out of Amman to Khartoum on an IOM-chartered Royal Jordanian Airways A-310 aircraft at 11.00 pm local time this evening. Amman to Khartoum is a 3-hour flight.

They include a number Sudanese who initially refused to leave the camp on the grounds that they feared persecution if they returned home. The group yesterday met with Sudanese embassy officials, and in return for assurances for their safety, agreed to leave.

IOM medical staff screened the group before departure to ensure that they were fit to travel.

The departure of the Sudanese and eleven Egyptians scheduled to leave for Aqaba by bus this evening will bring the camp population down to less than 100. As of 3.00 pm today there have been no new arrivals today and the border is reported to be quiet.

Last night's arrivals included eight South African "human shields", who will be collected from the camp by South African embassy officials later today. Other nationalities still represented in the camp include Sudanese, Malians, Eritreans and Djiboutians.

The Ruweished camp, which is located in the desert 50kms from the Iraqi border and 350 km from Amman, is run by the Jordanian Red Crescent and IOM, and is reserved for third country nationals (TCNs) transiting Jordan.