This photo report documents an RI visit to camps for Palestinian refugees from Iraq who are currently stranded along the border with Syria. Syria is preventing nearly 3,000 people from entering the country, leaving them vulnerable in isolated camps with poor infrastructure and security. RI has joined a coalition of international refugee organizations in pushing for third country resettlement for this group of refugees.
A Child at Al Waleed: Al Waleed camp, with 1,750 residents, is in Iraq, quite close to the Syrian border. The camp was never properly developed -- tents are strewn in the desert with poor sanitation and security.Putting Up New Tents at Al Waleed: In an effort to improve conditions, UNHCR is creating a new camp site across the highway from the old one. Sanitation in the new camp will be better, but security remains problematic, as the site is close to the highway and a Coalition military base.A Soldier Strolls Through Al Waleed: Coalition forces in the area are in contact with the camp population and try to present a friendly face. Nonetheless, it was disconcerting to wear helmets and flak jackets and have a large military escort on a routine camp visit.Al Tanf Camp: Al Tanf camp, with 940 residents, lies in the no man’s land between Iraq and Syria. The camp is terribly situated, close to a major highway and in a culvert, which floods in heavy rains.Idling Trucks Tower Over the Tents: The road is a major route between Syria and Iraq, with long delays at the border. The camp is completely open to the road. In the early days of the camp a child was run over and killed while asking truckers for drinking water.Cultural Performance at Al Tanf: The highlight of the cultural performance was a brilliant skit on camp conditions and the overall plight of the refugees. It ended with the residents being whisked off to Mars, the only place in the universe that would provide asylum.Children at Al Tanf: The adult refugees told us again and again how critical it was for them to get out of the camp so that their children’s future could be assured in a safe environment. These children will thrive if given a chance.