16 May 2006 – Palestinians are continuing to flee insecurity in Baghdad for Syria but are not being allowed entry into the country, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), which is providing them with assistance at a ‘no-man’s land’ on the border, reported today.
Speaking to the press in Geneva, UNHCR Spokesperson Ron Redmond said that on Saturday, a group of 67 Palestinians arrived at Tanef border crossing in northeastern Syria. Another group of over 50 Palestinians, including four pregnant women and several babies, arrived at the border on Sunday but was told to remain on the Iraqi side. There are reports that more Palestinians are on their way towards the Syrian border.
The first group was not allowed official access into Syria, “but were authorized to remain on the Syrian side of no man's land,” Mr. Redmond said. A UNHCR team tried to help them gain entry, but was informed by Syrian authorities that no newcomers would be accepted.
“The Palestinians say they are determined to stay until they are officially authorized to enter Syrian territory,” Mr. Redmond said.
The agency has provided food and basic items to the group, while a medical team from the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was dispatched to check on their health.
Last week, UNHCR, with the help of UNRWA and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at the invitation of the Syrian Government, transferred nearly 300 Palestinians who had been stranded for nearly two months at the Iraq-Jordan and Iraq-Syria border crossings into Syria.
Entry into Syria has since then been impossible for other Palestinians fleeing violence and intimidation in Baghdad, where an estimated 23,000 Palestinians still live.