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

Iraq Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Iraq.

Donate to this crisis

CAR Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Central African Republic.

Donate to this crisis

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

Syrians stream from their war-torn country into Iraq's Kurdistan region

Thousands of Syrians streamed across a bridge over the Tigris River and into Iraq's Kurdistan region on Thursday, August 15th. UNHCR Field Officer, Galiya Gubaeva, was on the ground with her camera.

Syrians stream from their war-torn country into Iraq's Kurdistan region

Iraq: Massive displacement from Mosul

In the past few days, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have fled fighting in the northern city of Mosul and other areas. UNHCR staff are on the ground to monitor the outflow and help those in need. The needs are immense, but UNHCR is working to provide shelter, protection, and emergency items, including tents. Many of the displaced left their homes without belongings and some lack money for housing, food, water or medical care. They arrive at checkpoints between Ninewa governorate and the Kurdistan region with no idea of where to go next, or how to pay expenses.

UN agencies, humanitarian groups, and government officials are coordinating efforts to do what they can to aid those in need. UN agencies are making an emergency request for additional support. UNHCR is hoping to provide emergency kits as well as thousands of tents. UNHCR and its partners will also be working to protect and help the displaced.

The exodus in the north comes on top of massive displacement this year in the western Iraqi governorate of Anbar, where fighting since January has forced some half-a-million people to flee the province or seek shelter in safer areas.

Iraq: Massive displacement from Mosul

Iraq: Massive UNHCR Aid OperationPlay video

Iraq: Massive UNHCR Aid Operation

The UN refugee agency is conducting a massive aid operation to assist some 500,000 Iraqis displaced by conflict in northern Iraq. It includes airlifts, and transport of aid by road and sea.
Iraq: UNHCR Aid Airlift Play video

Iraq: UNHCR Aid Airlift

UNHCR launches one of its largest aid pushes with an airlift of emergency relief supplies to Iraq's Kurdistan region. Aid is being brought in by air, land and sea to help close to a half million people who have been displaced by violence in northern Iraq.
A Lifetime of Waiting: Born in Hagadera camp, Sarah has never once left its confines.Play video

A Lifetime of Waiting: Born in Hagadera camp, Sarah has never once left its confines.

A Lifetime of Waiting: Born in Hagadera camp, Sarah has never once left its confines.