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UNHCR Says Refugee Returns To Iraq Will Continue

18 June 2004 -- The UN's refugee agency says that despite security concerns, refugees continue to steadily return to Iraq from neighboring countries.

A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Kris Janowski, told reporters in Geneva today that the agency has so far assisted 11,500 returnees. He said thousands more have returned unassisted since President Saddam Hussein's ouster.

"The decisive factor behind the decision to go back was essentially the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime that they had fled in the first place. So once that was gone they went back despite all the security threats, which I'm sure they know about these security threats and we also warned people against these security threats. We're not encouraging anybody to go back but a lot of people decided to so," Janowski said.

Janowski said most of the returnees have been coming from Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon. UNHCR says 202,000 Iraqi refugees were living in Iran before Hussein's ouster.

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