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Palestinians in Iraq appeal to Abbas over discrimination

March 28, 2012 5:51 P.M. (Updated: March 29, 2012 9:18 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian refugees in Iraq say they face widespread discrimination and have appealed to President Mahmoud Abbas to intervene.

The Iraqi Palestinian Brothers Association said Tuesday that it sent a letter to Abbas, who is in Baghdad to attend the Arab League summit, detailing their plight.

The association said Palestinians have been refused medical care in Iraqi government hospitals and must use fake ID cards to receive treatment. The Palestinian Red Crescent lacks support from the PLO and cannot provide adequate medical care, it added.

Meanwhile, some 90 percent of Palestinians in Iraq are unemployed, Palestinians are refused government jobs and young male Palestinians face particular discrimination in finding work, the association said.

The group said Palestinians were arbitrarily detained because of their nationality or because they are Sunni Muslims. Palestinian students are treated as terrorists and some have left school over fears they will be kidnapped, it said.

The refugees urged Abbas to discuss the problems with the Iraqi government during his visit.

They said pressuring the government would not be enough to resolve the problems, and that Abbas should ask the Iraqi government to issue passports to Palestinian refugees, most of whom were born in Iraq, so they can travel internationally.

They also urged Abbas to coordinate with the UN and the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government to transfer Palestinians to Kurdistan, which it said had agreed to receive them.

If the matter cannot be resolved during the Arab summit, the refugees said they hoped the Arab League secretary-general would coordinate with the UN to allow them to return to the Palestinian villages they fled in 1948.

UNHCR says in January 2012 there were 8,700 Palestinians refugees in Iraq. Prior to the US-led invasion in 2003, UNHCR estimated there were 34,000 Palestinians in the country.

The Minority Rights Group says Palestinians face discrimination in Iraq due to perceptions they were privileged under Saddam Hussein's rule.

Under Hussein, they received subsidized or rent-free housing, free utilities and were exempt from military service.

"Old resentments based on perceived favorable treatment by the Baath regime continue to stoke current prejudice," MRG said in November.

"Since 2003, Iraqi officials from the Ministry of Interior have arbitrarily arrested, beaten, tortured and, in a few cases, forcibly 'disappeared' Palestinian refugees," it added.

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