The plight of Palestinian refugees fleeing violence in Iraq and stranded in camps on the Syrian-Iraqi border is continuing to deteriorate as the summer heat intensifies and a solution remains elusive.
There is currently one camp on the Syrian side of the border, one in no-man’s land and one on the Iraqi side of the border housing Palestinian refugees.
As the summer heat has increased, with temperatures now reaching 50 degrees Celsius, living conditions in the desert have become increasingly hazardous with snakes, scorpions and sand storms.
"The weather is very, very hot and people are becoming very nervous and upset," said one Palestinian in Al-Tanf camp, situated on no-man's land between Iraq and Syria. "We can't live here, it's too difficult. We need help, particularly air coolers."
"Children in particular are developing medical conditions that they've never had before simply because of the high heat and dust storms," said Sybella Wilkes, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Syria.
The refugees are becoming increasingly desperate.
|More on Palestinians stranded on Iraqi border|
|UNHCR highlights Palestinian refugees’ plight in desert camp|
"The morale of the camp is so low and it's only going to get worse," said Wilkes. Nonetheless, conditions in Al-Tanf continue to be better than in neighbouring Al-Walid camp on the Iraqi side of the border. While the 389 refugees in Al-Tanf are entirely reliant on humanitarian aid, their basic needs, including food and medical assistance as well as a secure environment are being met by the UNHCR.
A third camp, Al-Hol, in northeastern Syria, houses another 300 refugees. However, conditions in Al-Hol are markedly better most notably in that the refugees have been allowed access to Syria itself and so are not stranded in no-man's land like at Al-Tanf.
It is now over a year that refugees have been confined to Al-Tanf camp without a solution to their plight.
In a statement on 26 June, the UNHCR said urgent medical care as well as an immediate humanitarian solution was needed for the Palestinian refugees stranded in camps on the Iraqi-Syria border.
"The situation of more than 1,400 Palestinians is deteriorating by the day. We urge countries in the region - and further afield - to help end their suffering," UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis said in a statement on 26 June.
Last week, a UNHCR team visited Al-Walid camp on the Iraqi side of the border and identified four children and one young man in urgent need of medical care, the statement said.
|The situation of more than 1,400 Palestinians is deteriorating by the day. We urge countries in the region - and further afield - to help end their suffering.|
The UNHCR has established a small infirmary at Al-Walid and the visiting team delivered a month's supply of multivitamins for 120 children and distributed 300 sun protection umbrellas. "But the seriously ill - some of whom are in danger of dying - need hospital treatment."
The Palestinians were also threatened by local armed groups early last week, the statement added.
Health and security officials in the western city of Ramadi, where the Al-Walid refugee camp is located, said on 27 June that they do not have enough resources to help the stranded Palestinians.
“We don't have enough police and army troops to be sent to the borders to protect their camps," said a police officer in Ramadi who asked to remain anonymous as he fears reprisals from militants.
“Whatever force you send there, it will definitely face problems with militants as they roam the desert day and night," he added.
Dr Ahmed al-Dulami of Ramadi General Hospital said the city's health directorate has no "extra ambulances or employees to lose".
"The refugees are increasingly scared and frustrated, trapped in the middle of nowhere," Pagonis said.
Family stranded on border
Mukhlis Khalid Mohammed, a 62-year-old Palestinian refugee in Baghdad, said his family had been stranded on the border with Syria since last January and the last time he had heard from them was in May.
"Their letter, which was sent by a taxi driver, told of many tragedies as they were experiencing very severe conditions - especially the kids - but we are convinced that staying there is better than living in fear in Baghdad," Mohammed said.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
Right now, we’re working with contributors on the ground in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries to tell the stories of people enduring and responding to a rapidly evolving humanitarian crisis.
We’re documenting the threats to humanitarian response in the country and providing a platform for those bearing the brunt of the invasion. Our goal is to bring you the truth at a time when disinformation is rampant.
But while much of the world’s focus may be on Ukraine, we are continuing our reporting on myriad other humanitarian disasters – from Haiti to the Sahel to Afghanistan to Myanmar. We’ve been covering humanitarian crises for more than 25 years, and our journalism has always been free, accessible for all, and – most importantly – balanced.
You can support our journalism from just $5 a month, and every contribution will go towards our mission.