U.N. calls for “beginning of end” for Iraqi refugees’ struggle

U.N. calls for “beginning of end” for Iraqi refugees’ struggle
# 25 January 2011 00:29 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. The United Nations official overseeing efforts to help Iraq’s many displaced people said Monday the country could be at a turning point, APA reports quoting CNN.
"This new government represents an enormous opportunity for Iraq, but also for our work," said Antonio Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, on his first visit to Iraq since the country formed a new government in December.
"I hope today we are marking the beginning of the end of the displacement chapter in Iraq."
There are 196,000 Iraqis registered as refugees with UNHCR, mainly in neighboring Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, the agency said in a news release. The UNHCR also "estimates there are about 1.3 million internally displaced Iraqis, and some 500,000 of them living in extremely precarious conditions."
Guterres met with top Iraqi leaders, including President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari.
He proposed "a government-led national plan of action" to create the conditions that would allow Iraqis to return home, the UNHCR said.
But Guterres stressed that returning to Iraq should be voluntary. "To force people to return home against their will where insecurity prevails is unacceptable," Guterres said. The UNHCR said it was a reference to recent deportations of Iraqis from a number of European countries.
Sweden last week defended its decision to deport 26 Iraqi asylum-seekers. The country said the European Court of Human Rights supports a Swedish immigration court’s ruling that an asylum-seeker from Iraq would have to show an individual threat directed toward him or her.
The UNHCR said several of the men deported from Sweden were from Iraq’s volatile provinces -- Baghdad, Diyala, Salaheddin, Nineveh and Kirkuk.
Last year, western European countries deported more than 400 Iraqis, according to the UNHCR.
In June, the UNHCR announced that a milestone had been reached, with 100,000 Iraqi refugees approved for resettlement.
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