Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Refugees in Despair

It has been an extremely tumultuous week for Iraq-related refugees, but UNCHR has been doing its best to alleviate difficulties. In Syria on Monday, UNHCR started registering Iraqi refugees in the country’s northeast region. The registration team expects to register tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees in the coming year. UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis said that the commission estimates nearly 1.4 million Iraqis in Syria, and once they have a clearer picture of the whereabouts of these refugees, they will be better equipped to protect and assist them.

Nearby, at the Al Tanf camp for Palestinian refugees on the Iraq-Syria border, a fire has swept through, injuring twenty-five people. Approximately 310 Palestinian refugees live at the camp after having fled sectarian violence in Iraq in 2006. These refugees, who have been denied entry into neighboring countries, are mostly women and children.

It is the third fire the camp has seen in less than a year, and Pagonis stresses that this latest disaster, “yet again highlights the need for a humanitarian solution to be found for Palestinians trapped at the border after fleeing Baghdad.” In the meantime, a UNHCR team has rushed tents, mattresses and kitchen supplies to the camp, organized refilling of fire extinguishers, and explored extra fire-prevention measures.