The United Nations refugee agency said today that it is continuing to search for feasible resettlement options for almost 2,000 Palestinians stuck in camps on or near the Iraqi-Syrian border as recent sandstorms worsen the already-difficult living conditions inside the camps.
The situation inside the Al-Tanf camp, located in the no-man’s land between Iraq and Syria, and the Al-Waleed camp, located in the Iraqi desert near the Syrian border, “remains very precarious,” especially as winter approaches, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Ron Redmond told journalists in Geneva.
The population inside Al-Tanf has swollen to 437 in recent weeks after Syrian authorities transferred 97 Palestinians who had entered the country from Iraq with forged documents.
The numbers are Al-Waleed, which is already home to 1,560 refugees, are also expected to increase as new families keep arriving from Baghdad to escape ongoing threats and attacks. UNHCR staff report that already 30 to 40 people arrive at Al-Waleed each week.
“We continue to seek better solutions, including resettlement options, for the refugees – both within and outside the region,” Mr. Redmond said, stressing that vulnerable and sick children who do not have access to medical care in Iraq are getting priority attention.
So far, one family of eight that has several sick children has been resettled in Norway, while 11 other medical cases for resettlement are pending approval.
Mr. Redmond said Chile and Sudan are the only other countries to have given positive indications to resettling other Palestinian medical cases, such as cancer patients and children with birth defects.
In the interim, UNHCR is working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian and Syrian Red Crescent Societies to improve living conditions inside Al-Tanf and Al-Waleed.
In a related development, the last batch of Palestinian families who had been living in Ruweished camp in Jordan after fleeing in Iraq have been resettled in Brazil. The camp was once home to 1,000 refugees, who have now resettled in many countries, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States.
Another 13,000 Palestinians are estimated to still live in Baghdad, where they face ongoing threats and attacks, in part because of perceptions that Palestinians received preferential treatment under the regime of Saddam Hussein.