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UN ‘very concerned’ for Palestinians on border

UN agency ‘very concerned’ for Palestinians travelling to Iraqi-Jordanian border

The United Nations refugee agency today voiced serious concern over the safety of a group of almost 100 Palestinians, including 42 children, who over the weekend moved to the Iraqi-Jordanian border from Baghdad, warning that this was exposing them to further hardship.

“While we have deep understanding for the great difficulties faced by the Palestinians and many others inside Iraq, we believe that moving from a dangerous situation in Baghdad to an extremely precarious situation at the Iraqi-Jordanian border is exposing the group and the many children among them to further hardship,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis.

The group was accompanied to the border by 2 international staff members from a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Iraq who facilitated their move, the UNHCR said.

Ms. Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva that the UNHCR was “very concerned” about the group of 89 Palestinians, including 42 children, two elderly and three people with medical problems, who had decided to move to the Iraqi-Jordanian border from Baghdad where they had found their situation becoming increasingly difficult.

The UNHCR has consistently reminded Palestinian representatives in Baghdad of the Government of Jordan's decision to close their borders to refugees. In May 2005, the camp in No Man's Land between Iraq and Jordan, where so many people suffered trying to get access to Jordan, was closed. Some 200 Iranian Kurds remain on the Iraqi side of the No Man's Land area but UNHCR has little means of providing help.

“The NGO involved in moving the Palestinians to the border is well aware of this, yet still volunteered to escort the group from Iraq to the border. The group of 89 people have now been stuck in the harsh desert environment of No Man's Land between Iraq and Jordan since Sunday 19 March,” Ms. Pagonis said.

“We understand the group has little shelter and meagre food supplies. UNHCR's ability to protect and assist these refugees is extremely limited, because of our limited access to the border area,” she added.

UNHCR has been very concerned about the situation of some 34,000 Palestinians inside Iraq and has been advocating for an improvement of their situation. Around 23,000 of these Palestinians have been registered by the UNHCR in Baghdad.

The Palestinian refugees came to Iraq in three main waves – in 1948, in 1967, and in 1991. They were provided with protection and assistance by the former regime and enjoyed a relatively high standard of treatment that some segments of the Iraqi population considered unfair. As a result, the Palestinians have in the past few years faced evictions, threats and harassment.

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