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Cablegate: Dart Assessment of Palestinian Refugee Camp

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KUWAIT 002107

SIPDIS

STATE ALSO PASS USAID/W
STATE PLEASE REPEAT TO IO COLLECTIVE
STATE FOR PRM/ANE, EUR/SE, NEA/NGA, IO AND SA/PAB
NSC FOR EABRAMS, SMCCORMICK, STAHIR-KHELI, JDWORKEN
USAID FOR USAID/A, DCHA/AA, DCHA/RMT, DCHA/FFP
USAID FOR DCHA/OTI, DCHA/DG, ANE/AA
USAID FOR DCHA/OFDA:WGARVELINK, BMCCONNELL, KFARNSWORTH
USAID FOR ANE/AA:WCHAMBERLIN
ROME FOR FODAG
GENEVA FOR RMA AND NKYLOH
DOHA FOR MSHIRLEY
ANKARA FOR AMB WRPEARSON, ECON AJSIROTIC AND DART
AMMAN FOR USAID AND DART

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF KPAL IZ WFP
SUBJECT: DART ASSESSMENT OF PALESTINIAN REFUGEE CAMP


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. The DART conducted an assessment on 10 May of the newly
established Palestinian refugee camp in the Baladi Yat area
of Baghdad. Although the camp appeared to be well managed
by the Palestinian Red Crescent and is supported by the
surrounding community, an inadequate water and sanitation
system combined with warming temperatures will increase the
likelihood of health hazards and communicable diseases. The
camp director warned that the population may swell to
approximately 1,000 families over the next two weeks,
thereby creating emergency requirements for shelter, food,
and water and sanitation. Despite being assured that
security was not a concern at the camp, the DART was forced
to depart hastily from the area when gunfire erupted near
the DART vehicles. End Summary.

--------------------
CHANGE OF ATMOSPHERE
--------------------

2. Upon arriving at the refugee camp, the DART met with the
camp's director and other community leaders to discuss the
circumstances leading to the creation of the camp and the
possible needs of the residents. The camp leaders were very
forthcoming with information regarding needs of the
residents, support from relief agencies to date, and access
to the camp. Once the camp leaders had answered DART
enquiries regarding humanitarian issues, however, the DART
received a lecture on the history of how approximately
35,000 Palestinians found refuge in Iraq following the
events of 1948 and how much the Palestinians in Baghdad
loved Saddam Hussein for all the support and subsidies he
provided during his regime. When asked about a permanent
solution to their situation, the camp leaders responded that
there was no option other than a return to Palestine.

3. The camp director then asked for contact information
from DART officers for possible future needs discussions.
Upon receiving DART business cards, there was a palpable
change of atmosphere, and it became apparent that there had
been a mistranslation of whom the DART represented. When
the camp director realized the DART was part of the USG, he
immediately developed a more stolid attitude and commented
that he expected more from the USG "since you are
responsible for half of our burden." The meeting adjourned
quickly and DART officers were allowed to inspect the camp.

--------------------------
SUPPORT FROM FORMER REGIME
--------------------------

4. The Baladi Yat area is reportedly home to approximately
8,000 Palestinian refugees who had been receiving financial
and material support from a variety of international
agencies including the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC), the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR), and the Iraqi Red Crescent. However,
since the collapse of the former regime and the consequent
cessation of government subsidies, many of these residents
were unable to afford rents set by the owners and were
evicted from their apartments. Approximately 400 families
since early April have been forced to leave their homes and
relocate mostly in the local soccer club grounds (the site
visited by the DART) and other locations in the area. The
DART counted approximately 120 tents at the location and was
informed that the average family size was five to six
persons. The camp leaders were most concerned that the
population of the camp could increase suddenly over the next
two weeks since approximately 700 other families face
eviction.

---------------
CAMP MANAGEMENT
---------------

5. Camp residents are residing on the soccer pitch in new
tents provided by the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, although
the tents are designed for only four persons. The camp
appears to be well managed and maintained, and there were no
visible signs of overcrowding. However, there is no more
space inside the fenced soccer pitch, and if the population
should rise dramatically, as anticipated by the camp
leaders, more tents will have to be erected in the empty
field adjacent to the soccer pitch. There is currently a
need for more tents, and the Iraqi Red Crescent Society told
the camp directors that it could not provide a fence if the
camp were expanded. The increasingly high temperatures in
Baghdad will exacerbate both health and safety concerns.
There is no separate cooking facility, and residents use gas
bottles in their tents.

6. Food stocks have been provided by several international
agencies including the ICRC and Iraqi Red Crescent Society,
although at the time of the DART assessment, there were
reserves available for only the next two weeks, presuming
that the camp population does not increase. The most
pressing need, according to the camp directors, is safe
drinking water. The Government of Qatar recently provided
bottled water, but stocks were expected to last only a few
days. The camp was trying to arrange for regular water
deliveries by truck, as the quality of water provided by the
local system was unknown.

7. The DART's water and sanitation specialist noted that
although he detected chlorine in the local water sources,
the water was not suitable for consumption. (There were
only three taps running from the same source.) This same
area was also used for washing and laundry. In addition,
the five toilets available (open-pit latrines) were
inadequate for the size of the camp. The women's bathroom
was well lighted and separated from the men's facilities.

------
HEALTH
------

8. There is a large outpatient clinic in the immediate
vicinity that supports the camp with a variety of health
services. The clinic was established originally to tend
exclusively to the Palestinians, but now serves the entire
community. It employs a staff of over 150 and operates 24
hours per day. The clinic has always been managed by the
Palestinian Red Crescent, and depends on various donations
to renew its medical stocks. The clinic staff visit the
camp every day and have noticed no health status
deterioration to date.

--------
SECURITY
--------

9. The camp directors claimed that there were no problems
with camp security, and that other than a few isolated
incidents of violence, the relations between the
Palestinians and local Iraqi populace were excellent. Most
of the recent evictions reportedly were financially
motivated and had little or nothing to do with ethnic or
human rights issues.

10. Despite earlier claims by camp leaders of no security
problems in the camp, the DART assessment was curtailed
after approximately 30 minutes due to an outbreak of gunfire
near the DART vehicles, after which the DART immediately
departed the camp. (Comment: DART officers believe the
gunfire was a deliberate intimidation tactic to compel the
DART to leave the camp. None of the camp leaders escorted
the DART or participated in the camp assessment following
the initial meeting. The DART believes it was allowed a
cursory evaluation of the camp and then encouraged to depart
through the automatic rifle fire. End Comment.)

JONES

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