Letter: UN closure of camp betrays refugee rights

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UN closure of camp betrays refugee rights

Sir: In defiance of the growing chorus of international criticism by human rights and aid organisations, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) plans to shut down the Atrush refugee camp in south Kurdistan (northern Iraq).

Atrush is no ordinary camp. It is the only sanctuary for approximately 15,000 Kurds from north Kurdistan (south-east Turkey) who fled the destruction of their villages and torture and brutal persecution carried out by Turkish soldiers and gendarmes.

The closure of this camp, which has an internationally recognised status, by the High Commissioner for Refugees is tantamount to denying these refugees the minimum internationally recognised humanitarian standards of treatment. It also betrays a callous contempt for human rights.

This policy is in stark and revealing contrast to that pursued by the United States and the United Nations last year, when 7,500 Kurds and their families who worked with the operation Provide Comfort were hastily evacuated via Guam to the US, to protect them from possible reprisals by Saddam Hussein's regime.

But for the Kurds from Turkey, new standards and different criteria apply. 15,000 Kurdish refugees are now quietly and expeditiously sacrificed to suit Turkey's barbaric aims, with the apparent approval of the UNHCR following Ankara's intervention in Washington. We appeal to the UNHCR to immediately stop its plan to close the camp.

Lord AVEBURY

Chairman, Parliamentary Human Rights Group

Lord REA

Lord McNAIR

Baroness GOULD

Lord HYLTON

JOHN AUSTIN-WALKER MP

(Woolwich, Lab)

TONY BANKS MP

(Newham North West, Lab)

TONY BENN MP

(Chesterfield, Lab)

JEREMY CORBYN MP

(Islington North, Lab)

CYNOG DAFIS MP

(Ceredigion and Pembroke North, PC)

MARGARET EWING MP

(Moray, SNP)

ALAN SIMPSON MP

(Nottingham South, Lab)

DAVID ATKINSON MP

(Bournemouth East, C)

JENNY JONES

Green Party

LESLEY KIPLING

Socialist Labour Party

KEN CAMERON

General Secretary, FBU

TIM GOPSILL

HAROLD PINTER

TOM STOPPARD

Vice-President, International PEN

MARGARET DRABBLE

Vice-President, International PEN

EDWARD MORTIMER

LOUISE CHRISTIAN

SHERI LAIZER

MIRANDA WATSON

GEORGE EUGENIOU

Cypriot Advisory Service

LIB PECK

National Peace Council

MICHAEL FEENEY

Refugee Adviser for Cardinal Hume

JOHN JOSSET

Policy Officer for Refugees, Catholic Bishops Conference England and Wales

Peace in Kurdistan campaign

London NW3

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