UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative to Iraq Bruno Geddo (3rd L) and Chinese Ambassador to Iraq Chen Weiqing (2nd L) visit Haifa Community Center in Baladiyat district, eastern Baghdad, Iraq, on July 2, 2018. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) handed over a community center Monday to Palestinian refugees in Baghdad after rehabilitation funded by China. (Xinhua/Khalil Dawood)
BAGHDAD, July 2 (Xinhua) -- UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) handed over a community center Monday to Palestinian refugees in the Iraqi capital Baghdad after rehabilitation funded by China.
The rehabilitation of Haifa Community Center, also known as Haifa Club, is supported by UNHCR and the Islamic Relief Worldwide as implementing partners.
In a ceremony in Baladiyat district in eastern Baghdad, UNHCR handed over Haifa Club to the Palestinians with the attendance of Chinese and Palestinian ambassadors, and the UNHCR representative.
In his speech at the ceremony, Chinese Ambassador to Iraq Chen Weiqing said "this activity center has been an important part of the community for over 50 years. More than 3,000 Iraqi people in the community and Palestinian refugees in Iraq have become friends in the activity center."
Hailing the great significance of reopening the activity center, Chen said it is also "a microcosm of the profound friendship of the three peoples of China, Iraq and Palestine."
He said that China in 2017 provided assistance of 2 million U.S. dollars to the Palestinian refugees in Iraq through UNHCR to provide "medicine, medical aid and scholarships for Palestine refugees in Iraq in addition to projects like the Haifa Center."
Chen reiterated China's firm stance toward the Palestinian-Israeli issue, which "can only be resolved through political and diplomatic channels."
For his part, the Palestinian Ambassador Ahmed Aqil said in his speech that the Palestinians are "in need of more support from China to resolve the issue between the Palestinians and the Israelis, at the moment (when) the United States has given up being an honest broker to resolve the conflict between the two sides."
Support for refugees and communities that host them is more important than ever, said UNHCR representative in Iraq Bruno Geddo, mentioning that the number of people "uprooted from their homes across the world has reached staggering 68 million."
"As forced displacement grows year on year, helping refugees rebuild their lives is a shared responsibility. UNHCR will continue to work tirelessly to help refugees realize their potential in Iraq, as we do across the world," Geddo said.
The reopening of the rehabilitated facility is seen as a sign of restoring normalcy in the country after years of chaos and insecurity following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Haifa Club was built in 1973 for the Palestinian refugees in Baghdad, but was abandoned and parts of its buildings were demolished after the collapse of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Its soccer field was filled with tents of homeless Palestinian families, who were victims of post-conflict turbulence along with other minorities in Iraq.