The forgotten Iraqi refugees


The following is abridged from an open letter to United Nations' secretary-general Kofi Annan and Amnesty International's Middle East Watch, circulated on January 25 by Saman Karim from the Worker Communist Party of Iraq.

There are more than 6000 Iraqi refugees forgotten in the desert of Saudi Arabia, at the Rafha camp. They have been living there since 1991, after the second Gulf War.

They have been undergoing the most atrocious suppression. There are disease outbreaks, deteriorating health conditions due to malnutrition and no decent accommodation in this camp. Their financial situation is deteriorating continuously due to the limited aid they receive, as well as having to engage in unauthorised travel to other cities.

All of these circumstances have led to depression, a rising suicide rate, and many refugees returning to Iraq despite the risk of death at the hands of [Saddam Hussein's] Baath regime.

The refugees have endured these painful circumstances in the hope of escaping misery and being resettled in a secure country by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and other commissions. But, in 1996 the commissions and delegations stopped visiting this camp.

We appeal to all free voices to support these refugees. We have started an international campaign in solidarity with the demands of the refugees in Rafha camp. These are:

1. The Saudi Arabia government should deal with the refugees according to the Human Rights Convention (December 1948) and the two 1966 conventions regarding social, economic, cultural and political rights.

2. The Saudi Arabia government should take immediate steps to improve the health, educational, recreational, housing and financial situation of the refugees, for men and women equally.

3. The Saudi government should provide the refugees with the permits and authorisation documents needed to travel and move to other cities in Saudi Arabia.

4. The UNHCR should take immediate steps to recognise them as refugees and resettle them in a safe country of their choice.