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IRAQ: No solution in sight for Palestinian refugees stranded at border

BAGHDAD, 19 February 2008 (IRIN) - Palestinian refugees trapped in three makeshift camps along the Iraqi-Syrian border are living in very precarious conditions and their situation is deteriorating by the day, a senior Palestinian diplomat said on 18 February.

[Read this report in Arabic]

“The Palestinian refugees… along the Syrian border are experiencing a very grave social, health and humanitarian situation,” Dalil al-Qasous, the Palestinian chargé d’affaires in Baghdad, told IRIN.

“As they enter their third year of living on the borders, they continue to face low desert temperatures during the winter and [now] the coming sandstorms… and no solution is in sight,” al-Qasous said.

The three camps are: al-Walid camp on the Iraqi side of the border where about 1,560 Palestinians have sought shelter; al-Tanf in no-man's-land between Iraq and Syria which currently accommodates some 489; and al-Hol camp in al-Hassekeh Governorate, just inside Syria, which was set up in May 2006 and home to over 300.

Al-Qasous said the Palestinian Authority had sought the help of European countries and donors to resettle hundreds of these refugees in Sudan. However, last October, refugees in al-Tanf camp rejected an offer of asylum in Sudan made by the Sudanese government, complaining that Sudan was too risky a destination.

“A meeting between the coordinator of Palestinian refugee affairs in Iraq and ambassadors of European countries and donors was held in Palestine last week to demand US$30 million to help efforts to resettle the refugees in Sudan,” al-Qasous said.

Palestinians face threats

He said that although the security situation had improved in some parts of Iraq, Palestinian refugees were still facing threats.

About 20 days ago, a Palestinian refugee was kidnapped in Baghdad’s western neighbourhood of Washah, one of at least three neighbourhoods where Palestinian refugees live in the capital. Since then there has been no word of his fate, he said.

A steady flow of Palestinians have fled Baghdad since March 2006, when intimidation, forced evictions and attacks on the community began mounting. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates some 13,000 Palestinians still live in Baghdad.

Currently Palestinians fleeing Iraq are unable to reach the camps in no-man’s land and Syria and have no option but to try Al-Walid, which lacks the infrastructure to cope with more people.

According to a statement on 18 February by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Committee to Aid Palestinian Refugees in Iraq, a man was slightly injured and his wife was affected by smoke inhalation as fire engulfed their tent on 17 February at al-Walid camp. According to the NGO, Ali Abdul-Wahab said he and his wife had lost their tent and all their belongings in the fire.

sm/ar/cb

Theme (s): Conflict, Early Warning, Health & Nutrition, Refugees/IDPs,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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