Source AP ©

Palestinians fleeing Iraq living in harsh conditions

Trying to avoid violence and harassment in Iraq, Palestinians are living at the Iraqi-Syrian border in awful conditions with they sick children having no medical treatment, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.

Some 437 Palestinians are living in Al Tanf refugee camp on no-man's-land between Iraq and Syria, and another 1,560 have sought shelter in al-Waleed camp on the Iraqi side of the border, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Living conditions in the desert camps are harsh, with sandstorms blasting the makeshift homes and winter approaching, said spokesman Ron Redmond. He added that up to 40 Palestinians arrive at al-Waleed camp every week.

"The borders are basically closed because of the visa restrictions that have been imposed by neighboring countries," he told reporters in Geneva.

The agency is particularly concerned about 11 sick children in al-Waleed camp, who urgently need medical treatment, Redmond said.

"There are children with spinal injuries, skin diseases, intestinal problems, cancer, leukemia," he said. "Very serious cases, and they're unable to get the help that they need inside Iraq."

UNHCR has made a global appeal for somewhere to resettle the children, but so far only Chile and Sudan have indicated they might host some of them, Redmond said.

In August, UNHCR managed to resettle a Palestinian family of eight with several sick children to Norway, Redmond said.

The estimated 13,000 Palestinians still living in Iraq face ongoing threats, he said. The Palestinian community there has become a target for persecution in recent years, largely because they are seen as having been favored under Saddam Hussein's regime.

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