ĦĦĦĦRAFHA, Saudi-Iraqi Border, April 28 (Xinhuanet) -- "You outsiders will never
understand the true feelings of the refugees who have lived in exile for 12
years. With Iraq war coming to an end, we areanxious to return to Iraq when
security is guaranteed," said 40-year-old Saad Aziz, with tears rolling down his
ĦĦĦĦ"It is like living in jail here without any hope. We have been forgotten,"
the Shiite Muslim from southern Iraq living at an enclosed Saudi refugee camp,
just 10 km from the Saudi-Iraqi border, told Xinhua.
ĦĦĦĦSaad Aziz is among one of the 33,000 people who fled to the campnear the
northern Saudi border town of Rafha after the 1991 Gulf War when Iraqi troops
crushed a Shiite uprising sparked by US callsfor Iraqis to overthrow President
ĦĦĦĦAlthough over 25,000 refugees have now been resettled in other countries
and some 3,300 returned to Iraq over the years, some 5,200 still remain in the
barren desert camp, which is ringed by barbed wire and security fences, unable
to find a host country.
ĦĦĦĦ"We don't want to stay in this desert camp. Of course, we hope to go back
to Iraq as soon as possible. But we have no money, and we demand fair
compensation and an appropriate assistance to start a new life in Iraq," said
Najim al-Derawi, a group leader of the refugees.
ĦĦĦĦStanding beside Najim, two young men were holding a banner: "No comeback
without our justice. The Iraqi regime has expropriated allour property in Iraq."
ĦĦĦĦSamer Haddadin, director at the Rafha camp office of the UN
HighCommissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told Xinhua that so far some 300Iraqi
refugees have submitted applications for returning home. "We will start to
process the applications immediately. But it is difficult to say when these
refugees will leave, maybe within weeks."
ĦĦĦĦ"Right now, the UNHCR does not encourage the refugees to return home at the
moment. We have to guarantee their safety, security anddignity. A UNHCR team of
experts will assess the security situationin Iraq," he added.
ĦĦĦĦHe also urged the international community to provide more assistance to the
refugees. "Living in a refugee camp is not like going to picnic in the desert at
the weekends. It means suffering,"he noted.
ĦĦĦĦIn the past 12 years, the Saudi government has spent 5 billion Saudi riyals
(some 1.3 billion US dollars) to feed, clothe, house and provide medical
treatment for the Iraqi refugees. By only providing the refugees food alone will
cost 400,000 dollars per day.
ĦĦĦĦThe Saudi government has established a school and a 64-staff medical center
for the refugees. Every housing unit for the refugees has a television, with
electricity, sewage system, heatingin winter and air-conditioning in summer.
ĦĦĦĦIn addition, every male refugee gets 300 riyals (about 80 dollars) in
pocket money every three months, while women get 350 riyals.
ĦĦĦĦHowever, the refugees are not allowed to work outside the camp. Camp
officials rotate the 300 jobs available to refugees as cleaners, teachers or
drivers every six months.
ĦĦĦĦAlthough the refugees are provided with basic food, clothing andhousing
units, none of this could alter the psychological trauma ofbeing a refugee. Some
1,800 refugees are single men over the age of19 who can not marry, study or
work... Some have suffered from depression and begun to despair of ever living a
ĦĦĦĦCamp psychiatrist Hisham Zamka told Xinhua that he often gave treatment to
the single men who were under most pressure and there were several cases of
attempting to commit suicide. "They can not see any hope. This is a big
ĦĦĦĦAn art exhibition created by some of the camp's 1,400 children sends the
same somber message. One watercolor entitled "cry for my country" shows a palm
tree with a big tearing eye. Art teacher Abdullah Amir said the watercolor was
created by a 13-year-old boy named Ehsam Kate and the palm tree symbols Iraq.
ĦĦĦĦBefore reporters leaving the refugee camp, a group of nine-year-old boys
recited a poem, expressing their feelings: "We thank the Saudi people for their
hospitality. We were born in Rafha and Rafhawill remain in our hearts for ever;
We could only learn about Iraq through teacher's description. We are eager to
return to our motherland and live like a free man." Enditem