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IX. Conclusion: The Need for a Regional Solution and International Burden Sharing

The current approach of the states bordering Iraq – keeping their borders closed to Palestinian refugees and refusing to consider alternative options such as third country resettlement – is severely affecting the ability of Palestinian refugees to seek safety outside Iraq.

The primary responsibility for protecting Palestinian refugees inside Iraq falls on the Iraqi government, which has an international obligation to prevent and punish human rights abuses against all persons within its territory, including non-nationals. It is imperative that the Iraqi government take immediate steps to bring security to the Palestinian refugee population in Iraq, and end discriminatory and abusive practices at the Ministry of Interior and other government branches. The United States-led Multinational Forces in Iraq also remain responsible for providing security in much of Iraq, and this must include the protection of minority populations at risk, such as Palestinian refugees.

Neighboring countries must respect the rights of Palestinian refugees to seek safety and asylum outside Iraq as long as they face insecurity and persecution inside Iraq. The burden of providing safety and asylum should not fall on a single neighboring country (Jordan and Syria being the preferred countries of flight for the Palestinians), but should be shared by countries in the region. Israel too must not wait for a resolution of the broader Palestinian refugee issue and should instead permit Iraqi Palestinian refugees with direct ties to Gaza to return to areas now administered by the Palestinian National Authority.

The broader international community also needs to participate in sharing the burden: it should provide financial assistance to countries that take Palestinian refugees from Iraq and consider cases of vulnerable Palestinian refugees for humanitarian resettlement.  While states might be reluctant to offer third-country resettlement because of the PLO and Arab League position against it, the dire situation of Palestinians fleeing Iraq cannot be ignored. The humanitarian evacuation program of Kosovars out of Macedonia in 1999 could serve as a model for resettlement conceived not as a durable solution but as a temporary expedient to preserve first asylum and save lives.116

[116]  Bill Frelick, “Humanitarian Evacuation from Kosovo:  A Model for the Future?” World Refugee Survey 2000.

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>September 2006