With violence in Iraq rising, thousands are fleeing the country. Many are living in refugee camps in neighboring Syria, where officials estimate that more than 700,000 Iraqis have arrived after the US lead invasion began. But not everyone is lucky enough to make it to the refugee camps, about 1,000 Palestinians who called Iraq home are now stranded in Syrian desert camp named al-Waleed.
Reuters says that, during Saddam Hussein’s rule, Iraq was home to about 30,000 registered Palestinian refugees. They were support by the Bath government, which made them target of attacks after the fall of Saddam’s regime. Many have fled the country to escape the violence. Last year Syria allowed 250 of them to enter the country but starting this year they have announced that they will not be taking any more Palestinian refugees from Iraq.
This decision by the Syrian authorities has placed the 1,000 refugees stranded in the al-Waleed desert camp in a precarious situation. Living conditions in the camp is getting worse by the day, there is just 1.5 liters of water every other day and with summer starting to heat the desert, there is danger of dehydration among the refugees. Medical care is almost non existent, there is just one doctor for the entire camp and for serious cases needing specialist care, only option is to travel for four hours back to Iraq or to Syria.
There is another refugee camp near Syrian border called Tanf, with 389 Palestinian refugees. In case of health care they are in slightly better condition because pregnant women and others in serious health risk are allowed to seek medical care inside Syria. After the treatment they are sent back to the camp.
International relief and humanitarian organizations are worried about the condition of those in the al-Waleed camp. On May 15, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released a statement on the condition of the refugees in al-Waleed camp. They say that, “The tented camp is overcrowded and many people are suffering from respiratory and other ailments that need proper medical treatment. But the nearest hospital in Iraq is located four hours away by car and the road runs through dangerous territory.”
A report on the conditions at al-Waleed published at ReliefWeb, suggests that frustration among the refugees regarding the living conditions and lack of help from international community is growing. They have quoted a Palestinian truck driver who has been living in camp for last six months as saying, “What are the neighbouring countries and international community waiting for? Are they waiting for us to be in our caskets?
In light of the harsh conditions faced by Palestinian refugees in al-Waleed camp and Syria’s refusal to allow them into the country, Damascus is now getting lot of criticism. According to a report published at the Independent UK, Human Rights Watch questioned the intention of the Syrian government in not allowing the Palestinians to enter the country when it has allowed nearly 700,000 Iraqi refugees of various faith and creed to enter the country.
Independent UK. URL (http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2237642.ece)