The government of Albania has offered asylum to 210 former residents of Camp Ashraf temporarily based at Camp Hurriya, citing for humanitarian reasons.
Reports say Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha made the offer after meeting with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf, U.N. envoy in Iraq Martin Kobler, and other officials.
The government of Alabania is ready to accommodate in Albania for 210 members of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran” or the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK).
Iraq has also expressed eagerness for Mujahedeen-e-Khalq to be out of the country.
The MEK reportedly opposes Iran’s clerical regime and fought in the 1980s alongside Saddam Hussein’s forces in the Iran-Iraq war.
US hails Albania’s offer for Asylum to MEK members
In a press statement in Washingto DC, US Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland says the United States welcomes the Government of Albania’s generous offer to resettle 210 former residents of Camp Ashraf temporarily based at Camp Hurriya.
“Thanks Prime Minister Berisha for the humanitarian gesture to provide a safe haven for these individuals.” – Ms. Nuland
She says Albania has been a strong partner of the United States in the effort to bring stability and peace to Iraq.
She reiterates that the permanent resettlement of former Ashraf residents outside Iraq is the only sustainable solution and remain committed to assisting UNAMI, UNHCR and the Government of Iraq in this endeavor.
The MEK is worries that by splitting their group into small sections, the governments of Iran and Iraq will be able to kill them more easily, as was done in a recent rocket attack on the unarmed group.
In addition, the United States calls on the leadership of the MEK to accept the Government of Albania’s humanitarian offer immediately.
“We urge the residents of Camp Hurriya to resume participation in resettlement interviews to ensure that individuals avail themselves of safe and secure relocation opportunities outside Iraq.” – Ms. Nuland
US also further urges the MEK leadership to place the highest priority on the safety and security of the former residents of Ashraf through full and unconditional cooperation with the resettlement process.
US supports the work of UN and Special Representative of the Secretary General Martin Kobler
According to Ms. Nuland, the US States strongly supports the work of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), UNHCR, and the Special Representative of the Secretary General Martin Kobler.
The US continues to emphasize that the camp and its residents must be secured in accordance with the December 25, 2011 Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and the Government of Iraq, and urge all involved parties to work together effectively on this.
Will MEK members accept the generous offer?
Earlier this week, the Iranian opposition group reportedly turned down Albania’s offer of asylum to 210 of its members, saying they could not accept an offer of asylum for only a small portion of the group.
According to the UN, more than 3,000 MEK members live at the former U.S. base near Baghdad.
Activists say the offer is not really so generous, and it is not new, and not from Martin Kobler. It is actually an old offer, that was supposed to be kept secret. Martin Kobler, who has abrogated his responsibility to the Ashraf residents, is using this in an attempt to prove his is working for the residents and not for Iran.
Insecurity in Camp Hurriya still persists
A deadly rocket and mortar attack has killed six Iranian dissidents and wounded scores of people in Camp Hurriya, Iraq.
Reports say the attack occurred at Camp Hurriya Saturday morning at a onetime U.S. base formerly known as Camp Liberty, which is now the home of the Iranian exile group Mujahedin-e-Khalq.
The United States condemned in the strongest terms the vicious and senseless terrorist attack that took place at Camp Hurriya.
The US has called for an earnest and promp investigation and to take all appropriate measures to enhance the security of the camp consistent with its commitment and obligation to the safety and security of the camp’s residents.
The US government is consulting with the Government of Iraq and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) on the circumstances surrounding this tragedy, and we remain committed to assisting the Government of Iraq and UNAMI in their efforts to implement the December 25, 2011 agreement.
Camp Ashraf residents relocated to Camp Hurriya
In August 2012, the sixth convoy of approximately 400 Ashraf residents arrived safely in Camp Hurriya, a new location prior to their eventual resettlement in third countries;
Reports say three-fourths of the residents, 2,400 persons have now arrived in Camp Hurriya.
Prior to transfer, close to 1,300 individuals were still awaiting relocation from Camp Ashraf to the transit centre.
In July 15, the Iraqi government has transported from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya a cargo convoy of 300 additional air conditioners, several large water tanks, additional generators, and other goods to improve the residents’ quality of life at Camp Hurriya.
In July 19, the Iraqi Government transported to Camp Hurriya three specially-equipped vehicles for residents with disabilities.
The Mujahedin-e Khalq’s (MEK’s) cooperation in the closure of Camp Ashraf, the MEK’s main paramilitary base, continues to be a key factor in the Department’s upcoming determination regarding the MEK’s Foreign Terrorist Organization status.
US Response to Camp Ashraf Issue
In May 2012, the United States of America addressed the challenges in the relocation of Camp Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty.
In his remarks in Washington DC, Special Advisor on Ashraf, House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Ambassador Daniel Fried said the process of relocating residents to Hurriya has had challenges.
He cited that each convoy, carrying approximately 400 Ashraf residents, their personal effects, and large quantities of cargo to Hurriya, has been a significant logistical undertaking.
The Iraqi government has provided dozens of coach buses and cargo trucks and literally thousands of Iraqi security forces to provide for the convoy’s security on the road, he stated.
According to Mr. Fried, accompanying each convoy are UN human rights monitors, who also observe the screening of residents and property as each convoy loads from Camp Ashraf and provide useful, neutral reports following each convoy movement.
In addition, Mr. Fried said living conditions at Camp Hurriya have also had their challenges.
Camp Hurriya, when under U.S. control, was part of the largest coalition base in Iraq, housing thousands of American and coalition forces during military operations in Iraq.
The containerized housing units (CHUs), which the former Ashraf residents now occupy, previously housed US service personnel, he noted.
UNAMI, with active U.S. support, is working at high-levels with the Iraqi government to ensure the welfare of the residents is not compromised and to resolve issues that arise.
In February 2012, nearly 400 residents of Camp Ashraf arrived safely at Camp Hurriya.
In December 2011, the Residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq have declared readiness for relocation of the first group of Camp Ashraf residents. They were moving from Camp Ashraf, to Camp Liberty with their vehicles and moveable belongings.
Situated in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala, Camp Ashraf housed members of a group known as the People’s Mojahedeen of Iran. The Iraqi Government has repeatedly stated its intention to close down the camp by 31 December and to transfer residents to another location until countries willing to accept them for resettlement are found.
The important agreement stipulates on providing temporary relocation and eventual resettlement of the more than 3,000 residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq.
Camp Ashraf is resident to 3400 members of the PMOI, main opposition and threat to Iranian mullahs. The Camp has been attacked by the Maliki forces on several occasions. The last attack led to a bloodbath; 33 killed of direct precision shooting and US Humvees ramming residents, 325 wounded and 6 taken as hostages by Iraqi thugs.