Iraq on brink of refugee crisis, say Irish MEPs

WITH or without a US-led war to remove Saddam Hussein, Iraq is on the edge of a humanitarian crisis, according to a group of MEPs visiting the country.

The UN yesterday warned that they expect at least 600,000 refugees to try to leave the country if a war begins. There are already 100,000 refugees inside Iraq escaping from situations in Iran and Turkey.

Irish MEPs Proinsias de Rossa and Patricia McKenna are with a group of 30 European Parliamentarians visiting Iraq.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees told them they have a working figure of 600,000 refugees as a result of a war, and they expect most of these people will head towards Iran.

Any war will create new problems for the tens of thousands of refugees in camps inside Iraq, such as the 10,000 Turkish Kurds Their camp is only 50km inside the Turkish-Iraqi border and they fear reprisals from the Turks.

Ms McKenna said UN resolutions to protect children were being ignored by the world while other such resolutions were being used to justify war.

Mr de Rossa said: “We saw an eight-month-old child who looked like a week-old baby. It is really shocking and puts things in perspective. The sooner Saddam Hussein goes the better but it’s not a solution for the people of Iraq.”

Last year the UN General Assembly unanimously passed A World Fit for Children resolution, which pledges to protect children from the horrors of armed conflict.

“This resolution must be respected and complied with. The UN and all governments concerned, including the Irish Government, must announce how they intend to carry out this resolution, before any further plans are made to make war on Iraq,” Ms McKenna said.

The delegation met representatives of the UN Food for Oil programme. Under this scheme Iraqis can buy food for a fraction of what it would cost on the open market.

A month’s supply of food costs about 12 cent, whereas the same food on the open market would cost €3.50, almost the entire monthly wage of many Iraqis.

Iraqis are hugely dependent on the Food for Oil programme.

“The devastation that large sections of the population would experience if it were disrupted is difficult to imagine. A war on Iraq would severely reduce distribution of this vital food,” Ms McKenna said.

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