The Jordan-Iraqi border at Karama closed on Monday and remains so after 89 Palestinian refugees from Iraq, including 42 children, tried to enter Jordan, according to the UNs refugee agency in Amman, UNHCR.
Yara Sharif, a senior public information assistant at UNHCR said the group of refugees reached the Jordanian border on Sunday and
tried to enter, but were denied permission by the government, which said they did not have proper documents.
"Recently, there have been outbursts of sectarian violence in Iraq, so there is a strong fear that if nothing is done to improve their
situation, others will leave the capital and head towards the border area, making things worse," Sharif said.
The group was accompanied by two members of an international NGO and is now in the "No-man's Land" area.
A refugee camp used to be located at that site, established after the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, to cope with people fleeing the country. But it was closed after all 743 refugees were transferred to Ruweished, a nearby camp, in May 2005.
Ruweished, located 69 km from the Iraqi border, is the closest town to the border and is scheduled to close in September.
Sharif said that responsibility for the refugees falls outside UNHCR Amman's mandate because they are "situated in a vacuum", between the borders, and located outside Jordanian territory. Even so, Sharif said that UNHCR "dispatched officials to evaluate the status there." But without Jordanian government approval, Sharif added that UNHCR was unable to take action.
There are an estimated 34,000 Palestinians in Iraq, with 23,000 registered as refugees, according to UNHCR. Groups of Palestinians arrived in Iraq after the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars.
While in Iraq, the Palestinians were given protection and special assistance from Saddam Hussein. Sharif added that the Palestinian refugees received high standards of treatment that some Iraqis felt was unfair, such as subsidised rents.
However, since the fall of Hussein in April 2003, Palestinians have been facing threats and harassment from Iraqis who resented them in the past, causing many to flee recently to Syria or Jordan. However, it is still not clear as to why this group left.
"UNHCR has been very concerned about this group of refugees and others inside Iraq over the past month ... advocating for improvement of the situation of refugees," said Sharif.
"Pressure has been put on the government of Iraq to do all that is possible to protect this extremely at-risk population and expedite the process of residence permits, identification and documents to allow the population, a majority of whom were born in and live in Iraq, a more reliable and confirmed legal status within Iraq," she added.
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