Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Marines, UN visit Palestinian refugee camp

Cpl. Jessica Aranda

The Border Transition Team of the Iraqi 5th Brigade, 2nd Region, made up of Marines from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, escorted staff from the United Nations to assess the living conditions of more than 1700 Palestinian refugees here.

Humanitarian assistance projects such as this complement the security provided by the Border Transition Team and symbolize how the Marine Corps reaches past their normal operations to assist local nationals.

Because of a continuous influx into the camp, Multi National Force – West tasked the Marines at Combat Outpost Waleed to support the U.N's High Commissioner for Refugees' mission. The Marines escorted the U.N. staff to the refugee camp, in an effort to offer a safe, sanitary way of life.

"We provided the logistical, transportation and security support for U.N. personnel in order to allow them to conduct humanitarian aide efforts," said 1st Lt. Michael Miller, the mission commander and intelligence officer for the Border Transition Team of the Iraqi 5th Brigade, 2nd Region.

The mission lasted two days, allocating the representatives enough time to conduct a detailed survey of the area. The Marines transported the staff in a convoy both days, posted security during the mission and provided billeting for the staff at the outpost.

"We came here in a combined effort to do technical assessments to improve the water, hygiene and sanitation conditions of the camp," said Marilyn Virrey-Raguin, a U.N. representative. "Because of the war, we have many challenges in accessing sites like this one, so the security protocols provided by the Marines were critical to our mission."

All of the displaced personnel once fell under the regime of Saddam Hussein. After his fall in 2003, the men, women, and children were forced by the Iraqis to flee Baghdad. With no where else to go, they found a safe haven just minutes away from the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Their camp consists of a mass of tattered tents in the open desert, surrounded by trash and a small, gapping concertina-wire boundary. To outsiders, this may look like a third-world great depression, but for the Palestinian children, it is all they know.

After walking around the camp and talking with the refugees, the U.N. representatives head back to their respective headquarters to report their findings and begin planning for improvements.

"Walking around the camp, you see these tough Marines become soft-hearted at the sight of these kids," said Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Hurst, the intelligence chief for the BTT. "I think it’s a good thing we are doing this and we are happy to be a part of any mission to help them.”

The BTT Marines escort the U.N. to visit and assess the camp each month.

1 comment:

InNeedofaUserName said...

Thanks for providing that support. It looks like tough living conditions. Where does their water come from?