UNHCR to Register Thousands of Palestinian Refugees in Iraq

13/07/2003

The United Nations Refugee Agency said on Saturday it would start
registering next week over 80,000 Palestinian refugees in Iraq who
have been subjected to harassment since the fall of al-Bath's regime,
following the US- led invasion of Iraq on April.

"This is the third and by far largest group of refugees to be
registered with the UNHCR," the United Nations High Commissionar for
Refugees said in a statement, adding Syrians and Iranian Arabs had
already been registered.

"Previously, all three refugee groups were registered with and
protected by the government. In the absence of a regular refugee
protection system, UNHCR now fills in."

The agency said Palestinians currently living in a squalid tented
camp in Baghdad's Haifa Sports Club would be the first to be
registered.

"The next ones will be refugees who were also evicted from their
houses but are being accommodated with relatives and friends."

After the fall of Baghdad to the US-led coalition on April 9, many
Palestinian families were forced out of homes they thought were
permanent, some under the threat of arms.

About 200 other families also received an ultimatum to leave their
homes after school exams at the end of June.

The United Nations refugee agency said that landlords in Baghdad have
ordered some 800 Palestinian families -- or about 4,000 people --
from their homes since May.

Palestinian refugees lived in those apartments for cheap prices, UN
officials said. However, it seems the lands owners wanted to rent
their properties for higher prices.

Many of Baghdad's Palestinians now live in two refugee camps -- one
located in a no-man's land at the Jordanian border, the other at the
Haifa Sports Club facilities in Baghdad.

UNHCR has asked the US-British coalition forces occupying Iraq to let
the refugees move into empty government buildings.

There are no accurate statistics on the size of the Palestinian
refugee community in Iraq. Some estimates say there are nearly 34,000
Palestinians living in Iraq.

Many of the refugees have lived in Iraq since the 1948 Arab-Israeli
war after they were expelled from their houses by Zionist
paramilitaries. Others moved in during the 1991 Gulf War.