Fire devastates Palestinian refugee camp in Iraq: UNHCR
GENEVA (AFP) — Fire swept through a Palestinian refugee camp on the Iraqi/Syrian border over the weekend, destroying tents, personal documents and possessions of those stranded there, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the fire highlighted the need for a solution for the 310 mainly women and children, who have been stranded at the Al Tanf camp since May 2006 after they were denied entry into countries neighbouring Iraq.
The fire was caused by an unattended fuel stove on Saturday and spread rapidly through the camp in no-man's land between Iraq and Syria, UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis told journalists.
Twenty-five people were injured and the fire engulfed some 53 tents housing 11 families, though a UNHCR team quickly rushed tents, mattresses and kitchen supplies to the camp in the fire's aftermath.
"This is the third time in less than a year that the camp has suffered serious fires and yet again highlights the need for a humanitarian solution to be found for Palestinians trapped at the border after fleeing Baghdad," Pagonis said.
"This fire has just added to an increasing atmosphere of despair and desparation at the camp," she added.
Another nearby border camp, Al Waleed, hosts an estimated 1,400 Palestinian refugees with new arrivals every week, the UNHCR noted.
The human rights group Amnesty International warned last week that thousands of Palestinian refugees have been ill-treated in Iraq, with many abducted, tortured and murdered by armed Shiite Muslim groups.
Palestinians are targeted, Amnesty said, because they are seen to have received "preferential treatment" from the ousted dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni like most of them, or they are suspected to support Sunni insurgents.Fact Sheet: Palestinians in Iraq
WATCH : "IRAQ: FORGOTTEN CAMP" A Palestinian refugee camp on the Iraqi Border