First Baghdad refugees reach Jordan

 The first refugees from the Iraq war this week told aid workers at a camp just inside Jordan of their flight from Baghdad and their despair about the future. On a bleak, biting cold landscape, around 200 non-Iraqi refugees shelter in tents from frequent sand storms 50km inside the Jordanian border. Many are from Africa and fled Baghdad when they heard bombs exploding. Mlewan, 33, his wife Halime, 30, and their five children left everything behind when the escaped from Baghdad by bus four days ago. Together with other families from Sudan they travelled for 15 hours before arriving at the Ruweishid refugee camp. They feel their lives have been destroyed. "Where are we supposed to go?" asks Mlewan. "We do not want to go back to Sudan because of fighting between the military and different tribes. And we cannot go back to Baghdad." The family has lost everything apart from the clothes they now wear and some children's toys. The children cannot understand why they had to flee. "I miss my friends," says Richard,11. "We used to play football together." Addi Hersi is a Sudanese driver from Baghdad. He has lived in the capital since 1984. He fled with his wife and four children. "How can we survive now? My wife is five months pregnant and we have nowhere to go. We do not want to go back to southern Sudan." Another father, born and raised in Baghdad, was too afraid to give his name. He had fled with his wife and three children soon after the war began. "We heard a bomb detonating and we ran from our apartment down to the basement with many other people in the house. "We are afraid for our Iraqi friends in Baghdad. We are thankful for staying here. We get good food and we have fresh water, but our tent is cold at night." A network of churches in Amman, Jordan, supported by British Christian relief and development agency Tearfund, is feeding the refugees three times a day. They are prepared to feed 5,000 a day, but so far the expected refugee mass exodus from Iraq into Jordan has not happened. The Jordan Red Crescent built the camp at Ruweishid. It is a desolate place. The 70 tents have been erected on a flat field of flints and boulders. "We are ready and waiting should thousands more refugees flee Iraq and head this way," said Mark Smith, Disaster Management Advisor to the Jordanian Evangelical Community for Relief and Development (JECRaD).

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