Iraq Palestinians head to Iceland

A03249177.jpgAbout 30 Palestinians living in a refugee camp in the desert region along the Iraqi-Syrian border are due to leave for resettlement in Iceland.

The UN refugee agency says the group, mostly women and children, has been living under canvas for the past two years in extremely harsh conditions.

There are about 2,300 Palestinians encamped in the desert region unable to gain entry to Syria.

Iceland takes 25-30 refugees per year, mostly vulnerable women and children.

Temperatures in the border refugee camps reach 50 degrees Celsius in the summer and dip below freezing during winter.

There were 34,000 Palestinians living in Iraq before the US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003; about 20,000 of them fled after the war.

Correspondents say Palestinians in Iraq felt especially vulnerable to attacks and persecution post-Saddam as they enjoyed generous financial support from the former government, which championed the Palestinian cause.

Those who were prevented from entering Syria have ended up in al-Walid camp in Iraq and in al-Tanf camp in no-man’s land between the two countries.

The camps lack basic services and the nearest proper medical facility in Iraq is more than 250 miles (400km) away.

The 30 Palestinians are due to be taken from al-Walid camp on Monday, a statement from the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, says.

The agency says Sweden has agreed to take a group of 155 refugees from al-Tanf camp.

Syria – which hosts more than a million refugees from the violence in Iraq – has restricted entry requirements to refugees, particularly Palestinians.

The Palestinian refugee crisis dates back to the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948 when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven from their homes in what became Israel.

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