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Iraqi refugees in Syria worry as govt's dispute

Most refugees say they would rather not return to Iraq

Despite recent meetings between the foreign ministers of Syria and Iraq, no steps have been taken in solving the problem of the ever growing population of Iraqi refugees in Syria, where the majority of refugees seem to be just fine.

In the wake of the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq thousands of refugees fled to neighboring Syria and many of them are concerned about their fate since relations between the two countries have soured after the Aug. 19 bombings, known as "Bloody Wednesday."

In the little town of Jermana, south of the capital of Damascus, the population doubled as refugees flooded in. Out of Jermana's 200,000 residents, 100,000 are Iraqi refugees, turning the area into a replica of an Iraqi city.

"I am worried about the current situation," a refugee told Al Arabiya. "However, I still feel secure in Syria."

Another refugee agreed and attributed this feeling of security to the fact that politics does not interfere with relations between people.

"Anything can happen between politicians," he told Al Arabiya. "But this is not reflected on the citizens of both countries."

Syria and Iraq restored their diplomatic relations in 2006 after almost three decades of frosty relations.

But the relations turned sour last month after a suicide bomber killed almost 100 people by blowing up a truck at a ministry. The attacker made a tape in which he claimed he was trained in Syria.

Anything can happen between politicians...But this is not reflected on the citizens of both countries

Refugees

Weak Iraqi government

Iraqi allegations that Syria is involved in the ministry bombings expose a weakness on the part of the Iraqi government, said one Jermana resident.

"Iraq is just exporting its problems to other countries to cover up for its failure to handle its internal conflicts," he told Al Arabiya.

The most obvious proof of internal divisions, he added, is that politicians inside Iraq rarely agree with each other and each party represents its own ideology.

One woman expressed her wish to go back to Iraq, but argued that the government could be the major obstacle.

"If the government doesn't want us back, we cannot return," she told Al Arabiya.

Iraq is just exporting its problems to other countries to cover up for its failure to handle its internal conflicts

Refugee

Life on the border

Another female refugee said she thought it was unlikely that the Syrian government would expel Iraqis from its territory.

The majority of Iraqi refugees refuse to go back even if they are kicked out of Syria.

"We'd rather live on the border than go back to Iraq," a refugee told Al Arabiya. "The security situation there is deplorable."

Another refugee agreed and said the situation will be very critical if they have to leave Syria.

"If we are kicked out, we will only have God to resort to," he told Al Arabiya.

Despite the current political deadlock and the concerns many of them expressed, Iraqis in Syria still go about their daily lives as if everything is normal.



(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

We'd rather live on the border than go back to Iraq

Refugee