UN Closes Al-Tanf Refugee Camp in Iraq After
Relocating Palestinian Refugees in Syria
UN closes Palestinian refugee camp in Iraq
Published yesterday (updated) 03/02/2010 09:48
The main UN refugee agency closed the Al-Tanf refugee camp between
the borders of Syria and Iraqi on Monday and relocated the last of the
Palestinian refugees who had been stranded in the bleak no-man's land
for nearly four years.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees,
working in cooperation with the Syrian authorities, transferred the last
60 camp residents on Monday morning. They will be housed temporarily at
another refugee camp, Al-Hol, inside Syria.
"I am very happy that
this is finally over," said Abu Mohanned, one of the relocated refugees.
"We have been waiting for this for such a long time and yet we are
anxious about what's next. We have suffered a lot and have been forced
to leave with no document in hand after living 60 years in Iraq. We just
want a place that welcomes us and recognizes us as human beings."
Al-Tanf is a makeshift camp located on a narrow strip in no-man's
land between the Syrian and Iraqi borders. It was set up in May 2006 for
Palestinian refugees fleeing persecution in Iraq as no country in the
region would accept them.
Their stay was intended to be temporary
but lasted nearly four years, during which the residents had to face
harsh desert conditions: extreme temperatures, sandstorms, floods and
several risks of fire with difficult access to medical services.
UNHCR and its partners – mainly UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency),
UNICEF, the World Food Programme, the Palestine Red Crescent and the
Syrian Arab Red Crescent – had provided assistance to the refugees to
alleviate their suffering. Meanwhile, UNHCR has been actively seeking
humanitarian solutions for these refugees by requesting states give them
a chance to start a new life.
"Today we were able to close this
camp and this is a very important step and achievement in responding on
a humanitarian basis to the situation of people who were stranded there
as a result of fleeing persecution. This is the result of joint efforts
with the Syrian authorities and the resettlement countries," said
Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR's deputy representative in Syria.
"However, there are still hundreds of Palestinian refugees from Iraq who
are in Al-Hol camp in the northeastern province of Hassake and they also
need the same compassion and understanding," he said.
moments were filled with emotion and hopes for the future. Families
gathered next to the camp's main entrance, taking a last look at the
desert site where they had lived. They were relieved to be leaving, but
tense about their uncertain future.
Out of the 1,300 Palestinian
refugees who had lived at different times in the camp, more than 1,000
were relocated to third countries, including Belgium, Chile, Finland,
Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Although the living conditions in Syria's Al-Hol camp are slightly
better, circumstances are not sustainable and a solution is still needed
for more than 600 Palestinians from Iraq currently living there,
according to the UNHCR.
The exact number of Palestinians who
fled Iraq is unknown. Al-Tanf is one of three camps that received
Palestinian refugees from Iraq. Currently, there are around 2,000 in Al-Hol
and in Al-Waleed camp, which is on the Iraqi side of the border. UNHCR
said it would continue to advocate for a dignified solution for all
those Palestinian refugees stranded in camps in 2010.
Al-Ashi, reporting for the
Commissioner for Refugees' news
a version of this article
originally appeared. It is republished here with permission from UNHCR.
This site contains copyrighted material the
use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright
owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance
understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic,
democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this
constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for
in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
Section 107, the material on this site is
distributed without profit to those
who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information
for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of
your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the