AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
BRUSSELS — The EU and United States must take in ailing and wounded inmates from a camp in Iraq housing thousands of Iranian dissidents, the leader of an Iranian opposition group said Tuesday.
“I urge the European Union and the United States to immediately accept a certain number of sick and wounded residents” from Camp Ashraf,” Maryam Rajavi, who heads the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said on the sidelines of a meeting at the European parliament in Brussels.
“Any delay in this regard is unacceptable and unjustifiable,” she told AFP.
There are some 3,400 Iranians living in Ashraf, home for the past 30 years to Iranian dissidents, who are now facing expulsion as Baghdad wants to close down the camp.
The camp was set up when Iraq and Iran were at war in the 1980s by the then Iranian People’s Mujahedeen, which joined forces with the Iraqis to fight the Tehran government.
The camp came under US control until January 2009, when US forces transferred security for the camp to Iraq.
The camp’s residents are being assessed individually by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees after applying for refugee status, to allow them to resettle elsewhere, but fears are that the process cannot be completed within the time-frame set by Baghdad.
Under a pact signed on December 25 between the United Nations and the Iraqi government, the residents of camp Ashraf will be transferred to Camp Liberty, another site near Baghdad.
The People’s Mujahedeen has said it will only accept a move to Camp Liberty if this did not involve prison-like conditions.
“The EU, the US and the UN must intervene actively and immediately to prevent Camp Liberty from being transformed into a prison,” said Rajavi, adding that residents there must be free to come and go freely.
Her organisation says there is no potable water in the camp and that residents are not allowed to leave freely or have access to lawyers and doctors.
Daniel Fried, the US diplomat in charge of the Camp Ashraf issue, called on the People’s Mujahedeen to move to the new temporary home in accordance with the December 25 agreement.
Fried said that the United States was informed that an Iraqi representative held “businesslike and productive” discussions with the People’s Mujahedeen on Monday about the move.
“The United States welcomes this progress and we look forward to the first residents moving from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya (Liberty) in the immediate future,” Fried told reporters on a conference call from Washington.
“The residents of Camp Ashraf must make the decision to start this relocation process. Camp Ashraf is no longer a viable home for them. They have no secure future there,” he said.
“The government of Iraq has committed itself to the security of the people at Camp Hurriya and is aware that the United States expects it to fulfill its responsibility,” he said.