Situation of stranded Palestinians deteriorating by the day – UNHCR


Geneva : The United Nations High Coommissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that the situation of more than 1,400 Palestinians who have fled Baghdad and are stranded in camps on the Iraq-Syria border is deteriorating by the day.

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UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters Tuesday that there is an urgent need for medical care as well as an immediate humanitarian solution and that the refugee agency urges countries in the region, and further afield to help end their suffering.

“A UNHCR team visited Al Waleed camp — home to 1,071 Palestinians — on the Iraqi side of the border last week and identified four children and one young man in urgent need of medical care. They included a youth with a hole in his heart who needs life-saving surgery, two children with Hodgkin’s disease suffering from relapses, one youth about to lose his leg because of a vascular disease, and a young man with severe diabetes losing his sight,” she added.

She stressed that the UNHCR and the ICRC 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.

“An added worry is that the security situation is also rapidly deteriorating in the area. Early last week the camp was visited by armed local men who threatened the refugees and demanded some of their supplies. The Iraqi Interior Ministry put out an arrest warrant, but the culprits are still at large,” said Pagonis.

Pagonis added that 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. “Several refugees begged our team not to forget them and leave them in this hell. No one wants to return to Baghdad,” she said.

According to Pagonis in Baghdad the situation remains grim.

“Many Palestinians are trapped, afraid to move but also afraid to stay. There are still an estimated 15,000 Palestinians remaining in Iraq — less than half of the estimated figure in 2003,” she added.

Pagonis then said that the refugee agency has repeatedly called for international support for the Palestinians but with few results. “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 Pagonis.