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Sweden, Iceland absorbing Palestinian refugees

  • Story Highlights
  • Some 200 Palestinian refugees from Iraq will go to Iceland, Sweden
  • 2,300 Palestinians "are living in desperate conditions along the Iraq-Syria border"
  • Plans under way to send some refugees to war-torn Sudan
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(CNN) -- Iceland and Sweden plan to take in about 200 Palestinian refugees from Iraq who have been living in refugee camps along the Iraqi-Syrian border, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday.

More than two dozen refugees stranded at the Al Waleed refugee camp for the last two years will be headed to Iceland in the next few weeks, the agency said. In addition, 155 Palestinians in the Al Tanf refugee camp have been accepted for resettlement in Sweden, it said.

Many Palestinians living in Iraq have gotten caught up in the violence that has engulfed the country since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and have had to flee their homes. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said that out of the estimated 34,000 Palestinians who lived in Iraq since 2003, about 10,000 to 15,000 remain.

The UNHCR says about 2,300 Palestinians "are living in desperate conditions along the Iraq-Syria border." They are, the UNHCR says, "unable to return to Iraq or to cross the borders to neighboring countries." It says the Al Waleed camp has 1,400 people and Al Tanf about 900.

"UNHCR has repeatedly called for international support for the Palestinians but with few results. Few Palestinians in the border camps have been accepted for resettlement or offered shelter in third countries; 223 Palestinians left to non-traditional resettlement countries such as Brazil and Chile.

"Some urgent medical cases were taken by a few European countries, but this is a very small number out of the 2,300 Palestinians stranded in the desert," the UNHCR said in a statement.

It noted that Sudan has made an offer to take in some of those Palestinians, and said "UNHCR and Palestinian representatives are finalizing an operations plan that will enable this to take place."

Refugees International recently asked the United States government to intervene and resettle the Palestinians in the United States instead of Sudan, which itself is engulfed in sectarian fighting and whose government has been condemned for atrocities.

"The Palestinians being resettled in Sudan is obviously not an ideal or preferred solution," State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper told CNN last month. "But we accept the judgment of the UNHCR that it is preferable to the Palestinians continuing to be stranded in the border area in extremely dire circumstances."

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