Getting out



Arab nationals flee Baghdad bombing.

The choice was between risking being bombed in Baghdad and braving the Jordanian desert where temperatures can reach below zero degrees celsius.

Sudanese national Ahmed Altom, his wife and their seven young children decided to take their chances in the desert.

When the bombs started raining on Baghdad on Thursday, they joined the hundreds of Arab nationals fleeing the country in buses, cars and trucks.

Their destination: two refugee camps spread over an area the size of two football fields in Jordan and 50 km from the Iraqi checkpoint. There, the family of nine will cram into a 6-sq-m canvas tent that offers little shelter from the weather.

The 35-year-old labourer shrugged his shoulders and said that at least they would be safe in the camps. ‘There were bombs dropping all over Baghdad. I was afraid that something would happen to my family and so we all left.’

His wife Ishta, weary from the nine-hour bus journey from Baghdad, added: ‘We were lucky that nothing happened to us. I am afraid for my friends who are still in Iraq. We will stay here for a while and then leave for Sudan.’

About 4,000 Sudanese nationals live in Iraq and so far, they have comprised the majority of refugees crossing into Jordan. Amman is allowing only non-Iraqis to enter the country.

Over the past week, its workers have braved sandstorms to set up about 300 tents, electricity poles, mobile toilets, water tanks, pipes, a medical clinic and food warehouses in preparation for an exodus.

Officials from the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) in Jordan said they were planning for 60,000 refugees, many of them with children who may be traumatised or malnourished.

But the UN High Commissioner for Refugees believes the figure could be as high as a million.

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