UNHCR welcomes Syrian offer for Palestinian refugees at Iraq-Jordan border

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

At the end of last week we learned that the Government of Syria has agreed to receive the group of 181 Palestinian refugees stranded at the Iraq-Jordanian border under UNRWA auspices. We are grateful that the Syrian government is offering a solution to the group which has been camping since 19 March at Trebil border point, just inside Iraq. The group had left Baghdad out of fear for their security.

UNHCR is in close contact with UNRWA on this matter and stands ready to assist as required. Contacts are presently underway with all concerned to ensure a smooth transfer of the group to Syria. We have not been informed that other Palestinians will be accepted into the country.

Some of the harassed Palestinians in Baghdad, hoping to get admitted into Syria as well, decided to leave Baghdad upon hearing the news. Late Saturday night our staff in Jordan were informed about the arrival of a bus from Baghdad with an additional group of 50 Palestinians. The group was stopped at the Iraqi side of the border and the 50 passengers were not allowed to join the 181 persons already camped in the Border Administrative Area.

Efforts on Saturday night by UNHCR to contact the supervisors of the border personnel were unsuccessful and the new arrivals remained in the bus during the evening, until the weather turned so bad that 34 women and children were temporarily given shelter with the group of 181. The men who had remained on the bus later moved to a site further away from the camp, still in the border area. They were provided with food and water by the border authorities and other Palestinians.

Over the past two days our staff in Jordan and Iraq have made every effort to allow the new arrivals to officially join the other group, but have been unsuccessful so far. We have been told by the border officials that they had not received any official information regarding the admission of additional people into Syria.

The situation inside the Trebil border camp is getting more and more difficult. Over the weekend, strong winds and dust storms blew away several tents and temporary infrastructure such as latrines and caused heavy damage to the camp.

At the same time, we are continuing our efforts with UNAMI and the Iraqi authorities, to improve the security situation of the Palestinians in the capital.