Resettled Palestinian refugees arrive in Iceland

Briefing Notes, 9 September 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 9 September 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

A group of 29 Palestinian women and children refugees who spent the past two and a half years in a makeshift desert camp on the Iraq-Syria border arrived last night in Reykjavik, Iceland, to begin a new life. The group consists of eight families headed by women, several of whom lost their husbands during the conflict in Iraq.

Upon arrival, the 29 Palestinians were taken by bus to the town of Akranes about an hour's drive north of the capital, where furnished apartments had been prepared for them. Over the next weeks, the refugees will undergo orientation, preparation of identity papers and thorough medical checkups. The refugees will receive financial support, housing and counselling from the local municipality. The children will start school and their mothers will attend language courses take classes on Icelandic society and culture. They will also receive job training.

Each refugee family will have a support network of three or four local families, who have been trained by the Icelandic Red Cross.

Given their vulnerability, UNHCR considered resettlement to be their only option. Iceland takes 25-30 refugees for resettlement annually and in recent years has focused in particular on resettling single women and single mothers with their children. Iceland has resettled 277 refugees through UNHCR since 1996. In previous years, it has resettled Colombians and refugees from the Balkans

Al Waleed and Al Tanf desert camps on the Iraq-Syria border are home to over 2,300 Palestinians who are still living in desperate conditions after fleeing from Baghdad. UNHCR has repeatedly called for international support for the Palestinians, but with few results. Only a small number of Palestinians in the border camps have been accepted for resettlement in non-traditional resettlement countries like Chile and Brazil, while a few medical cases were taken up by European countries. This is however a fraction of the remaining population in the camps.

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Al Tanf: Leaving No Man's Land

In February 2010, the last 60 Palestinian inhabitants of the squalid camp of Al Tanf on the Syria-Iraq border were ushered onto buses and taken to another camp in Syria.

Al Tanf camp was established in May 2006, when hundreds of Palestinians fleeing persecution in Iraq tried in vain to cross into Syria. With no country willing to accept them, they remained on a strip of desert sandwiched between a busy highway and a wall in the no-man's-land between Iraq and Syria.

Along with daily worries about their security, the residents of Al Tanf suffered from heat, dust, sandstorms, fire, flooding and even snow. The passing vehicles posed another danger. At its peak, Al Tanf hosted some 1,300 people.

UNHCR encouraged resettlement countries to open their doors to the Palestinians. Since 2008, more than 900 of them have been accepted by countries such as Belgium, Chile, Finland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The last group of Palestinians were transferred to Al Hol camp in Syria, where they face continuing restrictions and uncertainty.

Al Tanf: Leaving No Man's Land

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

After Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in Iraq in 2003, groups of refugees who had lived in the country for many years tried to leave the chaos and lawlessness that soon ensued. Hundreds of people started fleeing to the border with Jordan, including Palestinians in Baghdad and Iranian Kurds from the Al Tash refugee camp in central Iraq.

Aside from a few Palestinians with family connections inside the neighbouring country, the refugees were refused entry and free movement in Jordan. Thousands were soon stranded in the no-man's land between Iraq and Jordan or at the desert camp of Ruweished, located 60 kilometres inside Jordan.

Since 2003, Palestinians, Iranian Kurds, Iranians, Sudanese and Somalis have been living there and suffering the scorching heat and freezing winters of the Jordanian desert. UNHCR and its partners have provided housing and assistance and tried to find solutions – the agency has helped resettle more than 1,000 people in third countries. At the beginning of 2007, a total of 119 people – mostly Palestinians – remained in Ruweished camp without any immediate solution in sight.

Posted on 20 February 2007

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

Palestinians Refugees in Iraq

Since the overthrow in 2003 of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, Palestinian refugees in Baghdad have increasingly become the targets of arrest, kidnapping, threats and murder, prompting thousands to flee the capital.

There are still an estimated 15,000 Palestinians in Iraq – compared to more than double that number in 2003. They live in constant fear, many without proper documentation. For those who try to leave, the trip to Iraq's border with Syria and Jordan is increasingly dangerous. Hundreds are stuck at the Iraq-Syrian border, too scared to go back and unable to cross the frontier. Those who do manage to leave Iraq, often do so illegally.

International support is urgently needed to find a temporary humanitarian solution for the Palestinians. UNHCR has repeatedly appealed to the international community and countries in the region to offer refuge to the Palestinians. The refugee agency has also approached resettlement countries, but only Canada and Syria have responded positively. Syria has since closed its borders to other desperate Palestinians.

UNHCR also advocates for better protection of the Palestinian community inside Iraq.

Palestinians Refugees in Iraq