BAGHDAD – Palestinian refugees in Iraq on 19 March again appealed for protection; they said they were still living as “fugitives” and demanded immediate help for their compatriots stranded on the Iraq-Syria border.
“Palestinian refugees are still stuck between two fires: the fire of assassination and arrests inside Iraq, and the fire of deteriorated living conditions for those stranded on the border,” said O.N., a Palestinian refugee in Baghdad, who asked to be identified only by his initials for security reasons.
Although O.N. has managed to get a fake Iraqi ID card with an Iraqi family name, he is still afraid of being caught either by militants or government security forces as he travels across Baghdad each day working as a taxi driver.
“I live like a fugitive only because I am a Palestinian refugee in an Arab country,” said the 44-year-old father of three. “I cannot take my wife and children to the desert [Iraq-Syria border area where there are three Palestinian refugee camps] and that’s why I have moved from my house and rely on [this] illegal thing [fake ID] to survive.”
The family of Mukhlis Khalid Mohammed, a 63-year-old Palestinian refugee in Baghdad, has been stranded on the border with Syria since January 2007.
“I cannot bring them back and I cannot join them,” Mohammed told IRIN. ”The international community and neighbouring countries only issue statements about their plight,” he said, adding: “I want to tell them that their statements do nothing for us.”
On 18 March the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said it was concerned about the “inhumane conditions” in which over 2,700 Palestinian refugees are living in two of the three camps on the Iraq-Syria border.
The UNHCR statement called for immediate and urgent humanitarian assistance, and immediate relocation for those refugees with medical conditions.
"Over the past 22 months, the UNHCR has been calling for urgent humanitarian solutions for this group and – even if only temporary – relocation elsewhere, preferably in the Arab region," spokesman Ron Redmond said in a statement.
According to the UNHCR, 12 Palestinian refugees have died in the past 14 months in al-Walid camp – the latest one, a 25-year-old man, most likely died of food poisoning.
"The deaths highlight the urgent need for humane solutions and proper medical care for the destitute population," Redmond said.
The UNHCR’s latest figures show there are over 2,000 refugees in al-Walid camp, while over 710 others are in al-Tanf camp in no-man’s land between Iraq and Syria, nearly double the number since October 2007. About 300 refugees are in al-Hol camp, just inside Syria.