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Iraq: UNHCR concerned about Palestinians

Briefing notes

Iraq: UNHCR concerned about Palestinians

9 May 2003

We are increasingly concerned about a growing number of Palestinian refugees who have been evicted from their homes in Baghdad. This morning, a UNHCR convoy carrying basic supplies for the homeless Palestinians left Jordan and is expected in Baghdad this afternoon. Reports from the city suggest that around 1,000 Palestinian refugees have already been forced to leave their homes since the end of the war and are camping in disused buildings and various open areas around the Iraqi capital.

In another, similar development, a UNHCR team in southern Iraq has discovered dozens of Iranian refugees who have also been ejected from their homes by local communities.

Today's convoy of aid will help cover the immediate needs of the homeless Palestinians. The three-truck convoy is transporting materials for up to 2,000 people, including 400 tents, 1,200 mattresses and 2,000 blankets as well as stoves, jerry cans and soap. The aid materials will be handed over to the Palestinian Red Crescent who will distribute them to the Palestinians.

UNHCR fears that more of the 60-90,000 Palestinian refugees believed to be living in Iraq may lose their homes, as other landlords reclaim property they were forced to rent out for minuscule sums to the Ba'ath government on behalf of the refugees. Since the fall of the regime, even this money - sometimes as little as US$1 per month - has not been paid to the owners of the property.

On Wednesday, a UNHCR team operating out of Basra, in southern Iraq, discovered several families of Iranian refugees living in a disused transit centre on the edge of the city. The refugees reported that they had been expelled from their homes in Dujaila - a refugee settlement near Al Kut, about half way between Basra and Baghdad. They said their property and crops had been confiscated. While the UNHCR team was still in the centre two more families arrived from Dujaila citing similar reasons. The team subsequently proceeded to the Iranian border where they discovered three more Iranian refugee families displaced from Dujaila, who were trying to get permission to repatriate to Iran. You can find more details in the press release we have issued this morning. Copies are at the back.