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Death Of 2 Palestinian Refugee Children In Iraq


UN agency reports death of 2 Palestinian refugee children in Iraq

Two sick Palestinian refugee children waiting for resettlement from Iraq died in the last two weeks, underscoring the precarious conditions faced by the group, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today.

One of the children died in Baghdad while another died in Al Waleed refugee camp at the Iraq-Syria border, where earlier this month a 50-year-old man awaiting resettlement also died earlier this month.

"So far seven people have died there, including three young children, since Palestinian refugees started to arrive at the border in March 2006 fleeing violent attacks against them," said William Spindler.

The 3-year-old Palestinian boy who died at the camp had been suffering from rickets, a bone disease caused by lack of vitamins and minerals, as well as pneumonia. The other Palestinian child, whose resettlement approval was pending, was a 14-year-old suffering from Hodgkin's disease.

The UN refugee agency has repeatedly sought to spotlight the problems faced by Palestinian refugees in Iraq, many of whom are stranded at the border, unable to cross into Syria. Earlier this year, the agency appealed for urgent medical resettlement for vulnerable and sick children in Al Waleed camp.

So far, the agency has helped resettle one family of eight with several sick children from this camp to Norway last August. Another 11 medical cases submitted for resettlement are awaiting approval. Meanwhile, UNHCR has continued to identify other Palestinian medical cases, such as cancer patients and children with birth defects, who need urgent care.

"UNHCR continues to urge resettlement countries to make rapid decisions and facilitate the departure of those most in need," Mr. Spindler said.

An estimated 2,000 Palestinians are living in severe conditions in refugee camps along the Iraq-Syria border, unable to cross into Syria. A steady flow of Palestinians have fled Baghdad since March 2006, when intimidation, forced evictions and attacks against their community began mounting.

"UNHCR has sought solutions for the whole group since last year and has only received positive indications from Sudan and Chile," said Mr. Spindler. Earlier this year Brazil took 107 Palestinians who had been stuck in Jordan's Ruweished camp for four years.

Meanwhile, some refugees continue to return to Iraq. UNHCR staff in Syria noted an average of 600 Iraqis returning to their country daily over the past week. "Many of them said that they had run out of money and their visas had expired," the spokesman noted.

"We welcome any improvements in the security situation and stand ready to assist people who have decided or will decide to return voluntarily. Iraqis themselves are the best judges as to how secure they feel. However, we still do not believe that the time has come to promote, organize or encourage returns to Iraq. That would be possible only when proper conditions are in place - including material and legal support and physical safety," he said.

According to government estimates, there are some 2.2 million Iraqi refugees - including some 500,000 in Jordan and up to 1.5 million in Syria. An estimated 2.4 million are displaced inside Iraq.

ENDS

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