The United Nations refugee agency is appealing for the resettlement of Palestinian refugees stranded in desperate conditions for the past two years in makeshift camps on the border between Iraq and Syria.
Of the some 34,000 Palestinians living in Iraq in 2003, fewer than 15,000 remain in the country.
“The majority fled Baghdad since 2003 because of threats, torture, detention, or after friends and family members were killed,” said UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond. “The steady drain on financial resources has forced middle class families into the ranks of the poor, needing housing, food, medical, and cash assistance.”
Nearly 3,000 Palestinian refugees are taking shelter at the Syria-Iraq border camps, with over 1,200 refugees classified as highly vulnerable – having life-threatening diseases, requiring emergency medical treatment or fearing persecution if they return – and they must be resettled immediately, UNHCR said.
Living conditions at the camps are very difficult and continue to deteriorate, with refugees facing searing heat in the summer and freezing temperatures in the winters. There is also little security and limited medical services available to camp residents.
Over the past few years, UNHCR has sought to help these refugees. Between 2006 and 2008, almost 400 were resettled, mostly to non-traditional resettlement countries such as Brazil and Chile, while others started new lives in Denmark, the Netherlands, Iceland, New Zealand and Canada. Another group will shortly be heading to Sweden.
“This, however, remains insufficient and with conditions deteriorating UNHCR once again calls for urgent actions from resettlement countries all over the world,” Mr. Redmond said.
Twice a year, UNHCR holds informal talks with resettlement countries, while consultations between resettlement countries and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are held annually.