Friday, May 29, 2015

UNHCR concerned at obstacles facing thousands fleeing Ramadi

GENEVA, May 29 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency on Friday said it was deeply concerned about the desperate situation for thousands of people fleeing fighting in the central Iraqi city of Ramadi who continue to face challenges reaching safe areas.

The International Organization for Migration estimates that some 85,000 people have fled Ramadi and surrounding areas since fresh fighting between militants and pro-government troops erupted in mid-May. The vast majority – about 85 per cent – remain in Anbar governorate. In total, more than 180,000 people are estimated to have been displaced from the Ramadi area since hostilities began in early April.

"Many people are still on the move and UNHCR, alongside others in the humanitarian community, is striving to locate them and provide life-saving assistance," UNHCR spokesman William Spindler told journalists in Geneva. "Displaced civilians still face serious obstacles at various checkpoints out of Anbar into neighbouring provinces, as local authorities impose restrictions," he said, adding that Babylon and Kerbala governorates were closed to displaced people from Anbar.

The Bzebiz bridge, the main entry point from Anbar into Baghdad, was closed for four days at the start of this latest exodus from Ramadi, leaving many people stranded in soaring temperatures as they waited to have sponsorship arrangements processed. "While the bottleneck at the bridge has now eased, our monitoring teams report that the requirement for displaced people to have a local sponsor in Baghdad remains a concern," Spindler noted.

The spokesman said this hampers swift access to safety, leaves people waiting in searing heat without proper shelter and makes the displaced vulnerable to exploitation. UNHCR is urging the authorities to address this problem and more broadly to ensure freedom of movement and swift access to safety of all displaced Iraqis citizens.

Onerous requirements for other documentation has also been a concern. UNHCR's partners have spent days helping 600 vulnerable people – many with serious medical conditions or living with disability – get access to Baghdad governorate..............


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