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Iraq-Syria: UN Closes Palestinian Refugee Camp

UN Closes Palestinian Refugee Camp Straddling Iraqi-Syrian Border

New York, Feb 2 2010 5:10PM The United Nations refugee agency has closed a makeshift camp located between the borders of Iraq and Syria and relocated the last of the Palestinians who had been stranded there for nearly four years.

The last 60 residents of the Al Tanf camp were transferred yesterday morning by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (<"http://www.unhcr.org/4b67064c6.html">UNHCR), working in cooperation with Syrian authorities, and 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.”

Al Tanf, a makeshift camp located on a narrow strip of the so-called “no man’s land” between the Syrian and Iraqi borders, was set up in May 2006 for Palestinian refugees who fled Iraq since 2003 because of threats, torture, detention, or after friends and family members were killed.

While the camp was meant to be a temporary solution, the refugees ended up spending almost four years there, noted UNHCR. During this time, they faced harsh desert conditions such as extreme temperatures, sandstorms and floods, all with difficult access to medical services.

UNHCR has been appealing to States to resettle the Palestinian refugees that have been stranded in such makeshift camps to give them a chance to start a new life.

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.

“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,” 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 north-eastern province of Hassake and they also need the same compassion and understanding,” he said.

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.

ENDS

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