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Palestinians at Syria-Iraq border

Briefing notes

Palestinians at Syria-Iraq border

16 May 2006

Additional groups of Palestinians leaving Baghdad for security reasons started arriving at the Iraq-Syria border over the weekend. On Saturday, a group of 67 Palestinians arrived at Tanef border crossing in north-eastern Syria. They were not allowed official access into Syria, but were authorized to remain on the Syrian side of no man's land. A UNHCR team tried to help them gain entry, but were informed by Syrian authorities that no newcomers would be accepted. On Sunday, UNHCR was able to provide food and basic items to this group and an UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) medical team was dispatched to check on their health. The Palestinians say they are determined to stay until they are officially authorized to enter Syrian territory.

By the end of the day, Sunday, another group of 54 people arrived at the border. This group - which includes four pregnant women and several babies - has been told to remain on the Iraqi side of no man's land. There are reports that more Palestinians are on their way towards the Syrian border.

UNHCR is concerned about these developments. Only last week, UNHCR, with the help of UNRWA and IOM and upon invitation of the Syrian government, transferred nearly 300 Palestinians who had been stranded for nearly two months at the Iraq-Jordan and Iraq-Syria border crossings, into Syria. The Palestinians had fled increased violence and intimidation in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. But entry into Syria has since then been impossible for other Palestinians who tried to follow suit. There are still an estimated 23,000 Palestinians in Baghdad.