BAGHDAD, 19 April (IRIN) - About 150 Palestinians refugees fleeing from Iraq, including some 50 children, remain stranded near the Jordan-Iraq border, say aid officials.

"The children are suffering due to a lack of protection and food," said Ahmed Barak, a volunteer for the Iraqi Aid Association. "Medical provision in the area is very poor."
The refugees, many of whom fled their homes in Iraq in the wake of a recent spate of anti-Palestinian violence, have been waiting for Amman's permission to enter the kingdom since 4 April.

According to Barak, the International Committee for the Red Cross and the Iraq Red Crescent Society have been providing refugees with food, blankets and tents. Barak added, however, that their situation could worsen if no action is taken by the Jordanian or Iraqi governments. Baghdad, for its part, has said that stranded refugees were currently being protected by police officers, and that the government was looking into ways of assisting them further.

The situation of Palestinians in Iraq became particularly dire after the bombing of a revered Shi'ite shrine in Samarra on 22 February, which triggered a wave of sectarian violence. According to officials at the Baghdad-based Palestinian Muslims Association (PMA), more than 200 Palestinian families in Baghdad alone have received violent threats since the Samarra attack. PMA officials added that about 50 families had been recently forced to abandon their homes for fear of violence, while more than 90 Palestinians had been killed this year.

Iraqi resentment towards Palestinians living in the country has been on the rise ever since the overthrow of former president Saddam Hussein by US-led coalition forces in 2003. Under the former regime, Palestinians had been provided with privileges not available to most Iraqis, including free housing, medication and education.

New York-based Human Rights Watch urged Jordan on 7 April to allow the refugees into the country. Amman, however, responded by saying it was unfair to expect the kingdom to maintain an open-door policy to anyone desiring to enter its borders.

In the meantime, the plight of those stuck at the frontier has deteriorated. "Palestinians who have been forced from their homes are living under depressing conditions," said PMA spokesman Ahmed Muffitlak. "They require urgent help from international aid organisations because the Iraqi government is doing nothing to help them."