UN refugee agency says Palestinians who fled Iraq desperately need aid
Spotlighting the deteriorating conditions facing some 1,400 Palestinians who fled Baghdad and are stranded in camps on the Iraq-Syria border, the United Nations refugee agency today called for international assistance to alleviate their plight.
“There is an urgent need for medical care as well as an immediate humanitarian solution and we urge countries in the region – and further afield – to help end their suffering,” Jennifer Pagonis, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.
A UNHCR team visited Al Waleed camp – home to over 1,000 Palestinians – on the Iraqi side of the border last week and identified four children and one young man in urgent need of medical care.
“UNHCR and ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] are trying everything to provide proper medical care but this is impossible in the snake- and scorpion-infested border camp without access to proper water, sanitation, care and shelter,” said Ms. Pagonis.
The agency is also concerned because the security situation is also rapidly deteriorating in the area. “The refugees are increasingly scared and frustrated, trapped in the middle of nowhere and unable to understand why nobody or no country can help them or give them access to safety,” said the spokesperson.
The refugees are themselves appealing for help. “Several refugees begged our team ‘not to forget them and leave them in this hell.’ No one wants to return to Baghdad.”
There are still an estimated 15,000 Palestinians remaining in Iraq – less than half of the estimated figure in 2003, according to UNHCR, which has repeatedly called for international support to help them.
“We continue to strongly urge the Iraqi authorities and multinational forces to provide protection to the extent possible to the Palestinian community in Baghdad and at the Iraq-Syria border,” said Ms. Pagonis.