Egyptian Refugees Complain of Ill Treatment
RUWEISHED, Jordan (AP) _ Iraq allowed hundreds of Egyptian refugees to flee into Jordan today, and some complained that Iraqis beat them and stole their food during weeks of waiting at the border.
″It was terrible. It was the worst 10 days of my life,″ said Fatima Abadi, a mother standing barefoot at the Red Crescent transit camp near the Jordanian border post of Ruweished.
She held a small baby in her arms, and a 3-year-old boy clutched her side. ″We had no food, no shelter, no milk for the children,″ she said, crying.
She said ″at least″ one baby among the refugees died from the cold.
Egyptians, as many as 50 to 70 packed into the open backs of dusty trucks, began arriving at the camp early in the morning.
More than 500 had arrived by noon. Some estimated that as many as 5,000 more were waiting to cross at Iraq’s Trebil border post 50 miles to the east.
As the trucks pulled into the camp, many Egyptians waved peace signs and smiled at reporters.
″At last we are in Jordan, free to speak out,″ one said.
″The Red Crescent used to send us food, but Iraqi troops kept it for themselves,″ said a refugee who gave his name as Kamel. ″We were only given a small piece of bread and cucumber.″
″When we complained they beat us up,″ he said.
Many of the arrivals said they had been waiting on the Iraqi side of the border since shortly after Jan. 17, when the U.S.-led allied forces began bombing Iraq and Kuwait.
Egypt is one of the 28 countries participating in the anti-Iraq coalition.
″We lived in the desert in the freezing cold sleeping on the ground. It’s a miracle we’re still alive,″ said one Egyptian who refused to give his name.
Suddenly, this morning, Iraqi authorities told them they were free to enter Jordan. Trucks sent by the Jordanian government picked up the refugees and carried them to the tent camp, where they awaited transportation to Egypt.
Several of the refugees said they had seen relatively few people other than the Egyptians waiting on the Iraqi side of the border.
Jordanian and relief officials earlier had said they expected as many as 750,000 refugees to pour into Jordan following the outbreak of war, but so far only a few thousand have crossed the border.
More than 800,000 refugees, mostly Asians, had overwhelmed Jordan after Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2. Many had to spend weeks in the then-sweltering desert camps awaiting transport home.