The Iraq Embassy in the UK has confirmed its intent to protect the rights of Palestinian refugees in Kurdistan, including those taking shelter in Baharqa camp, in Erbil city.
In a letter emailed to the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London and signed by Ambassador Mohamed Jaafer AlSader, the Embassy denied Iraq’s intent to lock the camp and force the refugees out.
The Ambassador said Palestinian refugees are treated on an equal footing with Iraqi nationals sheltered in the camp and are granted access to basic services without discrimination.
Over recent years, PRC has kept sounding the alarm over the dire humanitarian situation of Palestinian refugees in camps set up Kurdistan.
PRC released a detailed report about the dire living conditions in Baharka camp after reports emerged on Iraq’s intent to evacuate the facility, where at least 11 Palestinian families have been taking refuge for over nine years.
Located near the Kurdish city of Erbil, the camp is made up of a cluster of makeshift homes that lack basic infrastructure and where access to vital services is almost out-of-the-way.
Palestinian refugees have been residing in Iraq since 1948, when the Arab-Israeli conflict caused large scale displacement throughout the region. That movement was followed by another group who fled the Occupied Territories as a result of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and later by a third group who fled from the Gulf countries in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war.
Persecution of members of the Palestinian community in Iraq began almost immediately after the fall of the former Saddam Hussein’s regime in April 2003. Palestinians were subject to harassment, targeted attacks, kidnapping, abduction, torture and extra-judicial killings.
Hundreds of Palestinian families were forcibly evicted from government and privately owned housing by groups of armed Shi’a militia as well as landlords who had received minimal rent from the government. Large numbers of Palestinians were dismissed from their employment, and the widespread violence in the aftermath of the US invasion caused the exodus of hundreds of families.