UNHCR prepares for 600,000 Iraqi refugees

19 March 2003
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced on 18 March that its contingency planning is based on an initial projection that there will be 600,000 refugees in a war for Iraq.

Preparations to deal with this number of people will cost $60 million, the UNHCR added. This is part of the $123 million in requirements already announced by the UN in February to cover the initial joint preparedness efforts of nine UN humanitarian agencies

The UNHCR says that so far it has spent $25.8 million of the $60 million on procurement, transportation and storage of non-food relief items, and on other measures in the region. Emergency stocks for nearly 300,000 people have been pre-positioned. Supplies are being stored in a variety of sites including Iskenderun, Kermanshah and Aqaba.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers has asked officials in each of Iraq's neighbouring states to keep their borders open in the event of conflict. Only Turkey so far has signalled it will seal its borders.

In Jordan, the UNHCR and the Hashimite Charitable Society are preparing one campsite at Ruwaished, about 60 kilometres from the Iraqi border. The site can hold up to 20,000 people. The government of Jordan and the Jordanian Red Crescent are preparing a second site at Ruwaished for possible third-country nationals, should any foreign workers leave Jordan.

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