Iraq: Third return convoy from Saudi Arabia due Sunday

Briefing Notes, 29 August 2003

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Peter Kessler to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 29 August 2003, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

A third convoy of returning refugees from Saudi Arabia's Rafha camp is slated to arrive Sunday in southern Iraq after having to wait for nearly two weeks at a temporary camp in eastern Saudi Arabia. No date has yet been set for further convoys from Rafha, which still shelters more than 4,400 Iraqi refugees, the last of more than 33,000 who fled into Saudi Arabia in the final days of the 1991 Gulf war.

The six buses and six trucks carrying 296 returning refugees and their belongings will depart the Ar Raq'i pilgrim centre, 400 km east of Rafha, early Sunday morning and cross Kuwait before proceeding to the southern Iraqi port town of Umm Qasr for arrival formalities. The Iraqis will board local vehicles at the port and proceed onwards, with 104 returnees going to Najaf, 86 to Qadisyah, 49 to Karbala, 32 to Babil, 14 to Baghdad, while Wasit and Diyala will see the return of nine and two persons, respectively.

The returning refugees left Rafha camp on 19 August, but were delayed at Ar Raq'i following the tragic bomb attack in Baghad. The Saudi government has kindly provided food and looked after the refugees' needs during their stay at Ar Raq'i. The [Saudi] Kingdom has provided unprecedented levels of support to Rafha's refugees since they fled their homeland 12 years ago.

We currently have 26 international staff in Iraq, half the number prior to the Baghdad terror attack. Half of them are in the north and the remainder are in Baghdad and Basra.

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Syrians stream from their war-torn country into Iraq's Kurdistan region

Thousands of Syrians streamed across a bridge over the Tigris River and into Iraq's Kurdistan region on Thursday, August 15th. UNHCR Field Officer, Galiya Gubaeva, was on the ground with her camera.

Syrians stream from their war-torn country into Iraq's Kurdistan region

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq

Some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees are children who have sought shelter in urban areas with their families. Unlike those in camps, refugees living in towns and cities in countries like Iraq, Turkey and Jordan often find it difficult to gain access to aid and protection. In a refugee camp, it is easier for humanitarian aid organizations such as UNHCR to provide shelter and regular assistance, including food, health care and education. Finding refugees in urban areas, let alone helping them, is no easy task.

In Iraq, about 100,000 of the 143,000 Syrian refugees are believed to be living in urban areas - some 40 per cent of them are children aged under 18 years. The following photographs, taken in the northern city of Erbil by Brian Sokol, give a glimpse into the lives of some of these young urban refugees. They show the harshness of daily life as well as the resilience, adaptability and spirit of young people whose lives have been overturned in the past two years.

Life is difficult in Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The cost of living is high and it is difficult to find work. The refugees must also spend a large part of their limited resources on rent. UNHCR and its partners, including the Kurdish Regional Government, struggle to help the needy.

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq

A Day with the Doctor: A Syrian Refugee Treats Refugees in Iraq

Hassan is a qualified surgeon, but by a twist of fate he now finds himself specializing in the treatment of refugees. In 2006, as conflict raged in Iraq, he spent 10 weeks treating hundreds of ill and injured Iraqis at a refugee camp in eastern Syria.

Six years later his own world turned upside down. Fleeing the bloodshed in his native Syria, Doctor Hassan escaped to neighbouring Iraq in May 2012 and sought refuge in the homeland of his former patients. "I never imagined that I would one day be a refugee myself," he says. "It's like a nightmare."

Like many refugees, Hassan looked for ways to put his skills to use and support his family. At Domiz Refugee Camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, he found work in a clinic run by Médecins Sans Frontières. He works long hours, mainly treating diarrhoea and other preventable illnesses. More than half of his patients are Syrian refugee children - not unlike his own two boys.

During the two days that photographer Brian Sokol followed Hassan, he rarely stood still for more than a few minutes. His day was a blur of clinical visits punctuated by quick meals and hurried hellos. When not working in the clinic, he was making house calls to refugees' tents late into the night.

A Day with the Doctor: A Syrian Refugee Treats Refugees in Iraq

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The IKEA Foundation is funding the development of durable and easy-to-assemble shelters for refugees. Syrians in northern Iraq have been among the first to try them out.
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This the story of Suleiman, one of nearly 60,000 refugees who crossed the border into northern Iraq in August 2013. Flight meant many families were torn apart as they searched for safety.