Palestinians from Iraq granted shelter in Sweden and Iceland

Palestinian refugees stranded for two years in desperate conditions on the Iraq-Syria border will be resettled in Iceland and Sweden in the coming weeks, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday.

More than two dozen vulnerable Palestinians from the Al Waleed camp will be leaving for Iceland while another group of 155 refugees from the Al Tanf camp are bound for Sweden, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond told journalists.

Redmond said that an estimated 2,300 Palestinians were living in camps along the border amid “dire” health conditions, unable to return to Iraq or cross into neighbouring countries.

Human rights group Amnesty International warned last year that thousands of Palestinian refugees had 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.

Redmond said that the refugees would be well supported in Iceland, which has a long history of accepting refugees from conflict-riven countries despite its small size and relative geographical isolation.

Iceland has taken in refugees from the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s and also from Colombia and has a “good support structure,” he said.