High Representative Catherine Ashton will urge member states to take in some of the Iranians who are settled in the Ashraf refugee camp in Iraq, according to an EU official. The diplomat said that the EU was looking at ways to take in some of the refugees who have strong ties with member states, as the Iraqi government announced it wanted to close the camp before the end of the year. Of the 3,200 refugees in the camp, between 800 and 900 might have enough links with third countries to be repatriated there, the diplomat said. Negotiations are currently underway to evacuate the camp in the most peaceful manner and agreements should be found with the refugees, but the EU official warned that other ways had to be studied in advance in case the refugees refused to evacuate – a hypothesis that is being taken very seriously. The diplomat also said that Tehran had offered immunity to the refugees who were willing to go back to Iran.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has estimated that as many as 1,000 refugees where thinking of doing so.
The camp was established under Saddam Hussein’s regime during the Iran-Iraq war for the military training of the main opposition People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK). In January 2009, control of the camp was transferred from the US, which obtained command in 2003, to the Iraqi authorities, who have since attacked the camp on numerous occasions on the grounds that the refugees might have collaborated with the former dictator. According to the United Nations, on 8 April Iraqi security forces killed at least 31 refugees and wounded another.