Letter: Saudi treatment of Iraqi refugees

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Sir: With regard to your report 'Refugee pair tell of Saudi brutality' (6 July), it is a pity that you did nothing to investigate the reality of the problem of Iraqi refugees in Saudi Arabia. In the Artawiya desert camp, Saudi Arabia inherited from the US forces a mixture of genuine prisoners of war and refugees who had been in revolt against the Iraqi regime.

Conditions were extremely difficult, and undoubtedly the amenities that could be provided were not all satisfactory. But there was no question of the refugees being held as prisoners.

If they did not wish to return to Iraq, they were not forced to do so, and if they could find another country to take them, they were free to leave.

Because Artawiya was only designed as a prisoner-of-war camp, an entirely new camp has been built at Rafha. This is more like a city than a camp, and the Artawiya refugees will be moved there as soon as possible.

It so happens that Hugh Schofield, of BBC Radio 4, who recently visited the camps at our invitation, reported of Rafha that 'it is hard to see how conditions could be improved'.

He also quoted UN officials as pointing out that what Saudi Arabia is doing in this area is unique, for it is spending the equivalent of 30 per cent of the UN's entire budget for its 18 million refugees worldwide.

Yours faithfully,



Royal Embassy of

Saudi Arabia

London, SW1

9 July