Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August 2014, 14:57 GMT

Palestinians stranded on Iraq-Syria border to resettle in Iceland - UN agency

Publisher UN News Service
Publication Date 5 August 2008
Cite as UN News Service, Palestinians stranded on Iraq-Syria border to resettle in Iceland - UN agency, 5 August 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/489970c51.html [accessed 27 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

More than two dozen Palestinians stranded for the last two years in makeshift camps in the desert on the Iraq-Syria border are set to leave in the coming weeks for Iceland, the United Nations refugee agency said today, while calling attention to the plight of more than 2,000 Palestinians who remain in the camps.

"The group includes some of the most vulnerable women and children with urgent cases, for whom resettlement is the only option" Daniel Endres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Iraq, said.

Iceland takes 25 to 30 refugees for resettlement every year and in recent years has focused on resettling single women and single mothers with their children.

Wedad, a 30-year-old widow, is among the group of 29 refugees that will be leaving soon for Iceland. She arrived in Al Waleed camp a few months ago after her husband was killed while trying to save victims of a suicide bombing in Baghdad's Karada district in March.

A second bomb exploded while he was helping survivors of the first blast, killing him and injuring his four-year old son. Wedad and her three children left Baghdad in hopes of going to a neighbouring county, but became stranded in the border camp.

"Life in the camp is harsh and very difficult for my children," said Wedad. "My son is especially suffering serious psychological problems after seeing his father killed in front of his eyes."

UNHCR said that an estimated 2,300 Palestinians are living in desperate conditions in two refugee camps along the Iraq-Syria border, unable to cross the frontier into a country already straining to cope with hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees. Of the estimated 34,000 Palestinians who lived in Iraq in 2003, it is believed that some 10,000-15,000 remain in the country.

Al Waleed camp is presently home to more than 1,400 refugees, while Al Tanf camp, situated in the no-man's land between Iraq and Syria, has doubled in size since October 2007, with some 900 refugees living there. A group of 155 Palestinians from Al Tanf are about to leave for Sweden soon.

Temperatures at the camps soar to 50 degrees in the summer, while they dip below freezing in the winter.

Without proper care, the health of many refugees has become increasingly dire, according the refugee agency. 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 kilometers away and patients have to be transported by taxi. Neighboring countries such as Syria have restricted entry requirements, particularly for Palestinians, and UNHCR said that it is extremely difficult to admit patients with urgent medical needs for treatment.

Few Palestinians in the border camps have been accepted for resettlement or offered shelter in third countries: some 300 Palestinians left for non-traditional resettlement country such as Brazil and Chile.

"We hope that more countries will offer refuge for the most vulnerable Palestinians who need immediate assistance. UNHCR is exploring all options to find temporary and long term solutions for Palestinian refugees." Mr. Endres added.

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