UN refugee agency issues new appeal for help for Palestinians fleeing persecution in Iraq
“Another 50 Palestinians have fled to the Iraq-Syrian border following a traumatic week in Baghdad, bringing the total number stranded at the frontier to about 700,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva.
The 50 made the hazardous journey to the border four days after 73 Palestinians travelled the same road following the temporary detentions of 30 Palestinian men by militia in the capital last Tuesday.
Over the past year UNHCR has voiced mounting alarm for the Palestinians, who fled to Iraq following the creation of Israel in 1948. Some received preferential treatment under ousted President Saddam Hussein, but they have become targets for attack since his overthrow in 2003. Nearly 20,000 of them have already fled Iraq but an estimated 15,000 still remain in the country, mostly in Baghdad.
Syria continues to deny access to all Palestinians who are now stranded in two makeshift camps. A group of 356 has been in the no-man's land between the two countries since May, while the second group, which has now expanded to some 340, is stuck in El Waleed on the Iraqi side of the border.
Yesterday UNHCR and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners provided food, water, kerosene, hygienic items and medicine to El Waleed camp. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and local NGOs will be bringing more tents and other relief items. A medical team visited the group on Sunday, but was unable to help one Palestinian man who died Sunday night from a severe asthma attack.
“Despite our efforts to help them, the Palestinians continue to live in inhumane and insecure conditions,” Ms. Pagonis said. “We again urge the international community, including neighbouring and resettlement countries, to help find a humane solution for these refugees who are persecuted inside Iraq and have nowhere to go.”
Just last week, the agency issued three appeals on behalf of the Palestinians.