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Relief Agencies in Jordan Surprised At Lack of Iraqi War Refugees - 2003-03-24


On the Jordanian-Iraqi border all remains quiet. To the surprise of relief agencies here, the tens of thousands of Iraqi’s intended to flee the war have not arrived.

There is almost no traffic coming through the main highway from Baghdad and only a few trucks and cars are taking the risk of heading into Iraq. Around forty miles from the border, the U.N. supported camp remains empty. Over the past several days, relief agencies have been hastily erecting tents and putting in sewage facilities.

“Now there are no refugees here at the moment. We are moving in advance of what we hope doesn’t happen. This camp here that you see, there is an estimated capacity of about 15,000 here,” said one relief worker.

The only refugees to cross the border in recent days are foreign nationals, mostly Sudanese students and workers.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is helping to house around 300 in a separate camp and are supervising their return to Sudan.

“I left my whole life behind me in Baghdad. I am going back to Sudan to stay with my family there,” said Akmed Akmed Apubaka, who left Iraq with nothing but a few suitcases. He lived and worked in Iraq for the last 13 years.

The refugee camp translator for the refugee said the man doesn't have anything to do and everything is finished for him.

"We are trying to find out how many people want to go back home, Right now, we started in the middle of the night last night and we don’t know how many want to go home," said Jose Romigio, an IOM worker.

"I was given 349 passports to sort out, and now I’m sorting them out. The people who want to go home, we’ll bring them home," he said. Though many of the refugees gathered in this windy and isolated camp chose to leave, over half remain.

But as the bombing of Baghdad intensifies, they may be soon joined by hundreds, if not thousands, more.