Palestinians stranded on Iraq-Syria border to depart for Iceland - UN
|Publisher||UN News Service|
|Publication Date||5 September 2008|
|Cite as||UN News Service, Palestinians stranded on Iraq-Syria border to depart for Iceland - UN, 5 September 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48cfa307c.html [accessed 10 July 2014]|
Nearly 30 Palestinian refugees stranded for the past two years in makeshift camps on the border between Iraq and Syria will start new lives when they head to Iceland next week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced today.
The group leaving for the Scandinavian nation next Monday includes some of the most vulnerable refugees, including children and women who lost their husbands during the conflict in Iraq.
"Given their vulnerability, UNHCR considers resettlement their only option and we appreciate Iceland's decision to accept them," agency spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.
Some 2,300 Palestinians are living in desperate conditions in two camps in the desert: one in Al Waleed on the Iraq side and Al Tanf in the no-man's land between the two borders.
The summers are excruciatingly hot, while temperatures often drop below freezing in the winter. Lacking many basic services, many refugees in the two camps are facing health challenges. The closest proper medical centre is over 400 kilometres away, and health workers in Al Waleed camp said that refugees suffer from a host of conditions, including diabetes, kidney problems and cancer.
"UNHCR has repeatedly called for international support for the Palestinians, but with few results," Mr. Redmond said. "Few Palestinians in the border camps have been accepted for resettlement or offered shelter in third countries."
To date, only 300 of them have moved on to non-traditional resettlement countries such as Brazil and Chile, and over 150 of them will soon be resettled in Sweden.
"Some urgent medical cases were taken by a few European countries, but this is a very small proportion of the 2,300 Palestinians stranded in the desert," the UNHCR spokesperson stated.
He added that the agency continues to press for alternative solutions to allow all of the refugees to leave behind the harsh living conditions in the two camps. "Their relocation would in no way jeopardize their right to return at any stage, if and when such a possibility arises."