Resettlement to Iceland rescues Palestinians from border camp limbo

News Stories, 4 August 2008

© UNHCR/M.Sidky
Wedad and her thee children, inside their tent in Al Waleed Camp in May, will benefit from resettlement to Iceland.

AL WALEED, Iraq, Aug. 4 (UNHCR) More than two dozen vulnerable Palestinian refugees stranded for the last two years in a makeshift camp in the desert on the Iraq-Syria border are set to leave the camp in the coming weeks for Iceland.

"The group includes some of the most vulnerable women and children with urgent cases, for whom resettlement is the only option" says Daniel Endres, UNHCR's Representative in Iraq.

Iceland takes 25 to 30 refugees for resettlement every year and in recent years has focused on resettling single women and single mothers with their children.

Wedad, a 30-year-old widow is among the group of 29 refugees that will be leaving soon for Iceland. She arrived in Al Waleed camp a few months ago after her husband was killed while trying to save victims of a suicide bombing in Karada district in March.

A second bomb exploded while he was helping survivors of the first blast, killing him and injuring his four-year-old son. Wedad and her three children left Baghdad in hopes of going to a neighbouring county, but became stranded in the border camp.

"Life in the camp is harsh and very difficult for my children," said Wedad. "My son is especially suffering serious psychological problems after seeing his father killed in front of his eyes."

An estimated 2,300 Palestinians are living in desperate conditions in two refugee camps along the Iraq-Syria border, unable to cross the frontier into a country already straining to cope with hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees.

Of the estimated 34,000 Palestinians who lived in Iraq in 2003, it is believed that some 10,000-15,000 remain in the country. Al Waleed camp is presently home to more than 1,400 refugees while Al Tanf camp, situated in the no-man's land between Iraq and Syria, has doubled in size since October 2007, with some 900 refugees living there. A group of 155 Palestinians from Al Tanf are about to leave to Sweden soon.

Temperatures in the summer soar to 50 degrees, while they dip below freezing in the winter. Hamid, a 32-year-old Palestinian, has lived in Al Waleed camp for more than two years. In early 2007 he broke his ribs during a severe storm when raging wind threw him violently against a door. Unable to get proper medical care, he resorted to painkillers and sedatives which, far from relieving his problems, have caused epileptic fits and comas.

"When I first came to the camp in March 2006, I felt that I had come to safety in this temporary refuge, but it has now been a long time and I am scared of what the future entails for us," said Hamid.

Without proper care, the health of many refugees has become increasingly dire. Palestinian health workers in Al Waleed who see patients every day have identified medical conditions ranging from diabetes and birth defects to kidney problems, cancer and serious trauma.

The nearest proper medical facility in Iraq is more than 400 kilometres away and patients have to be transported by taxi. Neighbouring countries such as Syria have restricted entry requirements, particularly for Palestinians, and it is extremely difficult to admit patients with urgent medical needs for treatment.

UNHCR has repeatedly called for international support for the Palestinians but with few results. Few Palestinians in the border camps have been accepted for resettlement or offered shelter in third countries; only some 300 Palestinians left to non-traditional resettlement country such as Brazil and Chile.

Some urgent medical cases were taken by few European countries, but this is a very small number of the total of the 2,300 Palestinians stranded in the desert. UNHCR continues its efforts advocating for alternative humane solutions in the hope that all of the Palestinians will be able to leave the harsh conditions of the camps. Their relocation would in no way jeopardize their right to return at any stage, if and when such a possibility arises.

"We hope that more countries will offer refuge for the most vulnerable Palestinians who need immediate assistance. UNHCR is exploring all options to find temporary and long term solutions for Palestinian refugees." added Endres.

By Maha Sidky in Al Waleed, Iraq

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Resettlement

An alternative for those who cannot go home, made possible by UNHCR and governments.

UNHCR Resettlement Handbook and Country Chapters

July 2011 edition of the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook.

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Between February and October 2011, more than 1 million people crossed into Tunisia to escape conflict in Libya. Most were migrant workers who made their way home or were repatriated, but the arrivals included refugees and asylum-seekers who could not return home or live freely in Tunisia.

UNHCR has been trying to find solutions for these people, most of whom ended up in the Choucha Transit Camp near Tunisia's border with Libya. Resettlement remains the most viable solution for those registered as refugees at Choucha before a cut-off date of December 1, 2011.

As of late April, 14 countries had accepted 2,349 refugees for resettlement, 1,331 of whom have since left Tunisia. The rest are expected to leave Choucha later this year. Most have gone to Australia, Norway and the United States. But there are a more than 2,600 refugees and almost 140 asylum-seekers still in the camp. UNHCR continues to advocate with resettlement countries to find solutions for them.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and more than 2 million others have fled to nearby countries. While many people were displaced before 2003, increasing numbers of Iraqis are now fleeing escalating sectarian, ethnic and general violence. Since January 2006, UNHCR estimates that more than 800,000 Iraqis have been uprooted and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. UNHCR anticipates there will be approximately 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of 2007. The refugee agency and its partners have provided emergency assistance, shelter and legal aid to displaced Iraqis where security has allowed.

In January 2007, UNHCR launched an initial appeal for US$60 million to fund its Iraq programme. Despite security issues for humanitarian workers inside the country, UNHCR and partners hope to continue helping up to 250,000 of the most vulnerable internally displaced Iraqis and their host communities

Posted on 12 June 2007

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

After Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in Iraq in 2003, groups of refugees who had lived in the country for many years tried to leave the chaos and lawlessness that soon ensued. Hundreds of people started fleeing to the border with Jordan, including Palestinians in Baghdad and Iranian Kurds from the Al Tash refugee camp in central Iraq.

Aside from a few Palestinians with family connections inside the neighbouring country, the refugees were refused entry and free movement in Jordan. Thousands were soon stranded in the no-man's land between Iraq and Jordan or at the desert camp of Ruweished, located 60 kilometres inside Jordan.

Since 2003, Palestinians, Iranian Kurds, Iranians, Sudanese and Somalis have been living there and suffering the scorching heat and freezing winters of the Jordanian desert. UNHCR and its partners have provided housing and assistance and tried to find solutions – the agency has helped resettle more than 1,000 people in third countries. At the beginning of 2007, a total of 119 people – mostly Palestinians – remained in Ruweished camp without any immediate solution in sight.

Posted on 20 February 2007

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

Iraq: Khaled Hosseini VisitPlay video

Iraq: Khaled Hosseini Visit

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Khaled Hosseini, a former refugee from Afghanistan, met Syrian refugees during a trip to northern Iraq. The best-selling novelist talked to many of the refugees, including an aspiring young writer.
Iraq: Innovation & Refugee ShelterPlay video

Iraq: Innovation & Refugee Shelter

The IKEA Foundation is funding the development of durable and easy-to-assemble shelters for refugees. Syrians in northern Iraq have been among the first to try them out.
Iraq: Separated Syrian FamiliesPlay video

Iraq: Separated Syrian Families

This the story of Suleiman, one of nearly 60,000 refugees who crossed the border into northern Iraq in August 2013. Flight meant many families were torn apart as they searched for safety.