US Addresses Relocation Challenges for Camp Ashraf Residents

The United States of America today addressed the challenges in the relocation of Camp Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty.

On his remarks today at 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 cites that each convoy, carrying approximately 400 Ashraf residents, their personal effects, and large quantities of cargo to Hurriya, has been a significant logistical undertaking.

Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the SecretaryGeneral for Iraq, speaks with journalists following his briefing to the Security Council on developments in the country, including with Camp Ashraf, an Iranian refugee camp within Iraq. The Iraqi Government has set 31 December of this year as the deadline for the closing of the camp, which Mr. Kobler has requested be extended in order to find a peaceful, humanitarian solution for the camp’s residents. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

The Iraqi government has provided dozens of coach busses 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.

He notes the the preparation of each convoy is lengthy and disagreements, sometimes heated, have occurred between the Iraqi authorities and the residents about cargo, screening procedures and other issues.

However, Mr. Fried cites that the U.S. Embassy and Department of State of followed the progress of each convoy closely, often in real time, in support of the UN; we are well aware of the difficulties involved.

Given the history of Camp Ashraf, the emotions involved, and the fact that many of those at Camp Ashraf have resided there for years, this should not surprise the world, he added.

“Indeed, the fact of continued progress is more remarkable than the difficulties.” -Mr. Fried

He stresses that Patience and compromise have been required, and will still be required, as the last convoys needed to close Camp Ashraf are organized.

In addition, Mr. Fried says living conditions at Camp Hurriya have also had their challenges.

He cites that 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.

Mr. Fried cites that Hurriya also includes among its living spaces a large dining facility, fitness facility, a mosque, and recreational space for the residents.

The UN studied the infrastructure before the first convoy and judged that the facility met or exceeded international humanitarian standards for such encampments to support the relocation of all Ashraf residents, he noted.

“Nevertheless, some legitimate concerns were raised about conditions at Hurriya.” -Mr. Fried

He notes that there were early issues with water, sewage and electric power, though many of these have been resolved.

He adds there were early concerns about the location and size of Iraqi police units at Camp Hurriya, though here, too, a satisfactory resolution was worked out. Both Camps Ashraf and Hurriya have internet connectivity to the world.

Still, some issues remain, Mr. Fried noted.

He stresses that greater attention needs to be paid to the repair of air conditioning units by the Government of Iraq, and other basic welfare needs, such as accommodations for the disabled, ought to be addressed.

With the onset of hot weather, requirements of electric power and water deliveries will increase, and the number of needed utility vehicles for provision of water and removal of sewage therefore will grow, Mr. Fried said.

He underlines that the Iraqi government needs to work with the UN to address ongoing humanitarian concerns as the population at Camp Hurriya grows amid hot weather.

The residents meanwhile need to engage with the Iraqi government, the UN, and others on these serious issues in a focused manner, he stressed.

“The UNAMI monitors, who visit Hurriya daily, and U.S. Embassy officers, who also visit frequently, have been invaluable in working out problems and keeping us informed about the details of issues that develop.” -Mr. Fried

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, Mr. Fried stated.

He notes continued efforts will be needed, especially now that the hot season has arrived.

He underlined that it is important that the final convoys from Ashraf take place and that Camp Ashraf be closed.

“Our efforts do not end, however, with Camp Ashraf’s closure. Indeed, we must not lose sight of our purpose: the relocation of Camp Ashraf residents out of Iraq.” -Mr. Fried

The way for residents out of Iraq lies through the UNHCR process, he cited.

He cites that with start-up issues largely resolved, the UNHCR has intensified its efforts and increased its resources to interview and review residents for refugee status eligibility, the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process.

The next great task in this effort requires continued participation of the residents in the UNHCR process, and the diplomatic work of relocating those residents out of Iraq, Mr. Fried stressed.

The United States has informed the UNHCR and our international partners that we will receive UNHCR’s referrals of some individuals.

He says these referrals will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, consistent with applicable U.S. law.

Other governments have stated their intention to take similar actions, and some have begun the process of reviewing residents, Mr. Fried added.

“Let me be clear: it will be critical for the United States to demonstrate leadership in this area.” -Mr. Fried

In addition, Mr. Fried emphasizes that the next stage of the process will be challenging.

He says some in Camp Hurriya may choose to return voluntarily to Iran or others may find that they have credentials and connections to European or other nations and can resettle there.

Still others will require resettlement as refugees or other permission to reside in third countries through the UNHCR’s good offices, he noted.

However, Mr. Fried pointed out that some of its European partners have already indicated that they will interview residents to determine eligibility for resettlement within their respective countries.

“In all these cases, the United States will encourage prompt and secure relocation of the residents of Hurriya and, again, we must be prepared to do our part, hopefully with support of Congress.” -Mr. Fried

On February this year, nearly 400 residents of Camp Ashraf arrived safely at Camp Hurriya.

On 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 houses 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.

The United States of America has welcomed the peaceful departure of the first 397 residents from Camp Ashraf and joins the United Nations in welcoming their safe arrival at Camp Hurriyawelcomes Update on Camp Ashraf

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.

Mina Fabulous
Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn't preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.