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Palestinians at the Iraq-Syria border

Briefing notes

Palestinians at the Iraq-Syria border

9 November 2007

The situation in the Palestinian camps at the Iraq-Syria border remains very precarious for nearly 2,000 Palestinians trapped there. In recent weeks, the camps have been blasted by sandstorms, making life even harder. The population of Al Tanf camp in the no-man's land between Iraq and Syria increased to 437 in recent weeks when Syrian authorities took 97 Palestinians who had entered Syria from Iraq during the past year with forged documents to the camp.

Another camp inside Iraq, Al Waleed, is currently hosting 1,560 Palestinian refugees and the number is expected to increase as new families continue to arrive at the camp. Our staff report that 30-40 persons arrive on a weekly basis fleeing ongoing threats and attacks in Baghdad. The conditions in the camp, located in the desert near the border with Syria, are harsh, especially with the approaching winter.

We continue seek better solutions, including resettlement options, for the refugees - both within and outside the region. Earlier this year, we appealed for specific support and urgent medical resettlement for vulnerable and sick children in Al Waleed camp as they are unable to find medical treatment in Iraq. So far we resettled one family of eight with several sick children from the camp to Norway in August. We still have 11 medical cases submitted for resettlement that are pending approval. Meanwhile, we continue to identify other Palestinian medical cases, such as cancer patients and children with birth defects, who need urgent care. So far, we have only had positive indications from Chile and Sudan and continue to look for other additional solutions.

We have been working closely with our partners, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian and Syrian Red Crescent Societies to improve the living conditions of the refugees in the camps.

We estimate that some 13,000 Palestinians are still living in Baghdad, facing ongoing threats.

There's also some good news regarding the Palestinians. On Monday, the Ruweished camp in Jordan was emptied when the last families left for resettlement in Brazil. The camp, which once provided shelter for some 1,000 refugees, is not expected to reopen. Located about 70 kilometres from the border with Iraq, it was set up in 2003 and housed Somalis and Iranian Kurds as well as Palestinians and Iraqis fleeing violence in Iraq. Most were resettled in third countries, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States.