By Lauren Mellinger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
BAGHDAD, Iraq – On September 5, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced that 25 Iraqi-Palestinian refugees, mostly vulnerable women and children currently residing in the al-Walid refugee camp, will be permitted to resettle in Iceland.
Prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 there were around 34,000 Palestinians living in Iraq. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraqi-Palestinians have been especially vulnerable to attacks, harassment and persecution by Shiite gunmen. Iraqi-Palestinians are especially targeted because many Iraqis resented the special status given to Palestinians under the former Sunni-led government. Although sectarian violence has dropped across Iraq, the Iraqi-Palestinians remain one of the most vulnerable groups in Iraq, according to the United Nations.
Following the fall of Saddam Hussein, many of the Iraqi-Palestinians fled their communities in Baghdad and resettled in the al-Walid and al-Tanf refugee camps along the Iraqi-Syrian border, awaiting resettlement. However, resettlement has been an arduous process as many countries including Syria, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories have closed their borders. Only a few countries including Iceland, Sweden, Brazil and Chile have agreed to accept a few hundred of the Iraqi-Palestinian refugees fleeing from persecution.
There are around 2,300 Iraqi-Palestinians living in the UN run al-Walid and al-Tanf refugee camps and lack access to basic services and adequate medical treatment. To date, only 300 of the 2,300 refugees have been resettled in other countries.
Earlier this year, Chile accepted 117 of the refugees and Sweden has agreed to accept 155. However, according to the UNHCR, it is unlikely that all of the Iraqi-Palestinian refugees will be resettled before next year.
For more information, please see:
BBC – Palestinians Head to Iceland – 8 September 2008
Jerusalem Post – 25 Iraqi Palestinians Head to Iceland– 8 September 2008
UN – Palestinians Stranded on Iraq-Syria Border to Depart for Iceland– 5 September 2008
AP – Iraq’s Palestinians Still Live in Fear – 29 August 2008