Middle East - AP
U.N.: Palestinians Evicted From Baghdad
Tue Jun 24, 8:21 AM ET
By JONATHAN FOWLER, Associated Press Writer
GENEVA - Thousands of Palestinians have been evicted from their homes in Baghdad since the fall of Saddam Hussein, who gave them asylum and cheap rents, the United Nations refugee agency said Tuesday.
Kris Janowski, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said that landlords in Baghdad have ordered some 800 families _ or about 4,000 people _ from their homes since May. Two hundred more families have been given notice to leave their apartments when their children finish their high school exams later this month.
Janowski told reporters the Palestinians are camping in tents provided by the U.N. agency.
"However, this is only a provisional solution, with temperatures soaring well above 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit)," he said.
UNHCR has asked the U.S.-British coalition running Iraq to let the refugees move into empty government buildings.
Saddam's government championed the cause of the Palestinians and ordered landlords to rent apartments to around 90,000 of them for as little as $1 a month. Now, most of the landlords want the Palestinians to get out or pay sharply raised rents.
Other assistance given to the Palestinians may have led to resentment from Iraqi citizens and the evictions may be part of a backlash against the refugees, UNHCR said.
Many of the refugees have lived in Iraq since the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Others were displaced during the 1991 Gulf War.
Janowski said UNHCR also is helping around 600 Syrian refugees in Baghdad who fled their homeland for political reasons in the 1960s and 1970s, some of whom now have been evicted and "left to their own resources," he said.
Many told UNHCR they now want to go home, but some are afraid to return to Syria, he said.
UNHCR staff also have visited the Al Tash camp west of Baghdad for the first time since the U.S.-led war on Iraq in March, Janowski said.
Around 12,000 people live in the camp, most of them Kurds from Iran who fled their homeland fearing oppression following the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
"The refugees complained to UNHCR that over the past few weeks the camp has seen a string of violent incidents, including shooting, looting and attacks by the local population," said Janowski. UNHCR has urged the coalition to protect the camp, he added.
Meanwhile, UNHCR is distributing aid to hundreds of Iraqi Kurds who have gone back to their homes near Irbil in the north.
Many of the Kurds _ who were forced out during Saddam's "Arabization" campaign in the region in the 1990s _ have found their villages destroyed or littered with land mines. Others face conflict with Arab settlers who were ordered to move into the homes by Saddam.
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