Scores of Palestinian refugees in Iraq have been killed since the US-led invasion in 2003. Most were abducted by armed groups and their bodies found a few days later in a morgue or dumped in a street, often mutilated or with clear marks of torture.
Many Palestinians have fled their homes, most of which are in Baghdad, after receiving written threats warning them to leave the country or face death. Some are in hiding inside Iraq; others are stranded in makeshift camps near the Iraq/Syria border with no apparent solution to their plight.
Some Palestinians have been arrested and detained by Iraqi security forces on suspicion of involvement in insurgency activities or links with Sunni insurgents. Most of those arrested have been released without charge, but many say they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention.
Palestinian refugees have been targeted by armed militia groups affiliated to Shi'a religious parties because of their ethnicity and because they are reputed to have received preferential treatment under the former Ba’ath government headed by Saddam Hussain. As Iraq plunged into chaos and the sectarian strife between Shi’a and Sunni intensified, Palestinians became more vulnerable.
Unlike Iraqi Shi'a and Sunni communities, they do not have an armed group or militia to protect them or retaliate against those who attack them. Some Shi’a religious groups have tried to link Palestinians to insurgents fighting against Iraqi troops and US forces in Iraq.
The 15,000 or so Palestinians who are still in Iraq, including those in camps near the border with Syria, are in legal limbo. They are recognized as refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. However, few countries in the region or beyond are willing to accept them for resettlement. So far, the Iraqi government and the US military forces have failed to provide them with adequate protection.
"The Iraqi government and the Multi-National Force must do all they can to afford effective protection to those at risk in Iraq, including the increasingly beleaguered Palestinian refugee community, and other governments should expand and expedite their refugee resettlement programmes in order to assist this especially vulnerable community," said Malcolm Smart, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
Amnesty International also calls on the Syrian and Jordanian governments to allow Palestinian refugees to enter their territory and to the international community at large to assist with the resettlement of Palestinians in line with their international obligations.