UNHCR urges governments to offer Iranian exiles haven


Camp Ashraf iraqThe UN refugee agency Tuesday urged the international community to give a haven to several thousand Iranian opposition members whose camps in Iraq have come under repeated attack.

“Since the September 1, 2013 attack on Camp New Iraq where 52 residents died, there has been limited progress in moving the remaining residents to a third country,” the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.

“UNHCR encourages all member states to share in the international efforts, admit residents and offer them a long-term solution,” it added.

The UN has been searching since 2011 for countries willing to host the exiles, who are unwanted by Iraq.

To date, just 300 have been taken in abroad, mostly by Albania. The UN is still seeking a new home for 2,900.

Camp New Iraq, more commonly known as Camp Ashraf, lies northeast of Baghdad and is the long-time base of the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran [PMOI].

The PMOI was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran and later the country’s clerical rulers, and set up camp in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s war with Iran in the 1980s.

It was disarmed after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 toppled Saddam, and today’s Shia-majority and Iran-friendly government in Baghdad is eager to see it move elsewhere.

UNHCR said that Iraq must take “all possible measures” to ensure the safety of the residents until they can find a new home.

It also expressed grave concern about seven individuals missing since the September 1 attack, saying they should be tracked down and safeguarded against any forcible return to Iran.

The PMOI charges that Iraqi security forces answering to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were behind the killings. Iraqi authorities blame PMOI infighting.

Many of the camp’s residents have already been relocated to Camp Liberty, a former US military base on the outskirts of Baghdad, but the PMOI has raised alarm about safety there.

Scores of PMOI members have been killed in over a dozen attacks on their camps since US troops withdrew from Iraq at the end of 2011.