Palestinian refugees to Iceland and Sweden

Briefing Notes, 5 August 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 5 August 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

More than two dozen vulnerable Palestinian refugees stranded in the desert in Al Waleed refugee camp on the Iraq-Syria border for the last two years will be leaving the camp in the next few weeks for Iceland. Another group of 155 Palestinians stuck in no-man's land between Syria and Iraq in Al Tanf refugee camp have been accepted for resettlement in Sweden. UNHCR appreciates the support of both Iceland and Sweden in finding help for these very vulnerable people.

The two groups include some of the most vulnerable women and children with urgent medical needs requiring immediate attention. As you know, UNHCR has for the past two years been seeking urgent humanitarian help for this group even if temporary relocation elsewhere.

An estimated 2,300 Palestinians are living in desperate conditions in two refugee camps along the Syria-Iraq border, unable to return to Iraq or to cross the borders to neighbouring countries. Al Waleed camp is presently home to over 1,400 refugees while Al Tanf camp, situated within the no-man's land between Iraq and Syria, has doubled in size since October 2007, with close to 900 refugees living there.

The health situation of many of the refugees has become increasingly dire as proper medical care and viable alternatives are lacking. 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. In the past 14 months, 12 refugees have died in the camps. We have posted a story on the UNHCR website which puts a human face on the suffering of these people.

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; 223 Palestinians left to non-traditional resettlement countries such as Brazil and Chile. Some urgent medical cases were taken by a few European countries, but this is a very small number out of the 2,300 Palestinians stranded in the desert. Sudan has offered to accept some of the Iraq Palestinians from the camps and UNHCR and Palestinian representatives are finalizing an operations plan that will enable this to take place. UNHCR appreciates all of these responses and we hope that all of the Palestinians will be able to leave the harsh conditions of the camps sooner rather than later. Their relocation would in no way jeopardize their right to return at any stage, if and when such a possibility arises.

While UNRWA the United Nations Relief and Works Agency is mandated with taking care of Palestinian refugees in the Near East, UNHCR is responsible for the Palestinians who live or have lived in Iraq or outside the UNRWA area of responsibility.

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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.

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

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

Palestinians Refugees in Iraq

Since the overthrow in 2003 of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, Palestinian refugees in Baghdad have increasingly become the targets of arrest, kidnapping, threats and murder, prompting thousands to flee the capital.

There are still an estimated 15,000 Palestinians in Iraq – compared to more than double that number in 2003. They live in constant fear, many without proper documentation. For those who try to leave, the trip to Iraq's border with Syria and Jordan is increasingly dangerous. Hundreds are stuck at the Iraq-Syrian border, too scared to go back and unable to cross the frontier. Those who do manage to leave Iraq, often do so illegally.

International support is urgently needed to find a temporary humanitarian solution for the Palestinians. UNHCR has repeatedly appealed to the international community and countries in the region to offer refuge to the Palestinians. The refugee agency has also approached resettlement countries, but only Canada and Syria have responded positively. Syria has since closed its borders to other desperate Palestinians.

UNHCR also advocates for better protection of the Palestinian community inside Iraq.

Palestinians Refugees in Iraq

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Emergency Resettlement – One Family's Journey to a New Life

After their family fled Syria, young brothers Mohamed and Youssef still were not safe. Unable to access medical treatment for serious heart and kidney conditions, they and the rest of their family were accepted for emergency resettlement to Norway.
A new life for refugees from BhutanPlay video

A new life for refugees from Bhutan

They fled to Nepal from Bhutan amid ethnic tensions in the early 1990s. Now, many of the slightly more than 100,000 refugees have been offered the possibility of resettlement to another country.