Iraq: UNHCR gratefully acknowledges UAE donation

Briefing Notes, 2 October 2007

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 2 October 2007, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is pleased to announce a $10 million donation by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, in support of our operations for Iraqi refugees in Syria. This donation will help ease the suffering of Iraqi refugees and alleviate some of the burden being shouldered by host countries such as Syria.

We thank the President and the people of the United Arab Emirates for this timely contribution, evidence of our enhanced humanitarian partnership and of humanitarian solidarity within the region. High Commissioner António Guterres is sending a message of thanks and appreciation to His Highness, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of United Arab Emirates, in recognition of this donation.

In the region, meanwhile, UNHCR staff yesterday reported that the Iraq-Syria border crossing at Al Tanf was largely deserted, in sharp contrast to the day before when the same team had seen large numbers of Iraqis crossing into Syria. Iraqi commercial truck drivers the only ones who had reportedly received visas were still passing through yesterday. While we have not had any formal notification by the Syrian authorities, we believe this might well indicate that Syria has again started to impose visa restrictions on Iraqis wishing to enter Syria.

Last month, Syria announced its intention to impose visa restrictions, declaring it had received more than 1.4 million Iraqis and was now at the breaking point. With the start of Ramadan, however, the visa restrictions were temporarily postponed. It now appears they have been re-imposed.

A closure of the border would effectively mean that Iraqis fleeing their country would lose their only remaining safe haven. Our team in Syria is still discussing with the government a proposal for the introduction of a special humanitarian visa, which would allow those most in need to still enter the country for urgent humanitarian reasons. But so far we have no further clarity on this.

There are more than 4.4 million uprooted Iraqis and they continue to flee at the rate of some 60,000 a month. More than 2.2 million of them are displaced inside the country, with some 800,900 people living in the northern governorates, 740,500 in the centre and 714,600 living in the south of Iraq. Another 2.2 million Iraqis have fled the country the majority of them to Syria. The Iraqis in Syria now constitute about 10 percent of the total population and put an enormous strain on the country. UNHCR has been calling for increased support for countries like Syria and Jordan who jointly host over 2 million refugees.

During the first six months of 2007, an estimated 19,800 Iraqis asked for asylum in industrialised countries outside the region (North America, Europe and Australia). At the same time, UNHCR referred the files of over 14,000 of the most vulnerable Iraqis to resettlement countries for their consideration. By the end of September, some 1,800 of these Iraqis had departed to various resettlement countries.




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Special Envoy Angelina Jolie in Iraq

The UN refugee agency's Special Envoy Angelina Jolie visited Iraq this week, meeting with Syrian refugees and internally displaced Iraqi citizens in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. She offered support to 3.3 million people uprooted by conflict in the country and highlighted their needs.

Jolie spoke to people with dramatic stories of escape, including some who walked through the night and hid by day on their road freedom. She also met women who were among the 196 ethnic Yazidis recently released by militants and now staying in the informal settlement at Khanke.

"It is shocking to see how the humanitarian situation in Iraq has deteriorated since my last visit," said Jolie. "On top of large numbers of Syrian refugees, 2 million Iraqis were displaced by violence in 2014 alone. Many of these innocent people have been uprooted multiple times as they seek safety amidst shifting frontlines."

Photos by UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

Special Envoy Angelina Jolie in Iraq

Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

For years, migrants and asylum-seekers have flocked to the northern French port of Calais in hopes of crossing the short stretch of sea to find work and a better life in England. This hope drives many to endure squalid, miserable conditions in makeshift camps, lack of food and freezing temperatures. Some stay for months waiting for an opportunity to stow away on a vehicle making the ferry crossing.

Many of the town's temporary inhabitants are fleeing persecution or conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. And although these people are entitled to seek asylum in France, the country's lack of accommodation, administrative hurdles and language barrier, compel many to travel on to England where many already have family waiting.

With the arrival of winter, the crisis in Calais intensifies. To help address the problem, French authorities have opened a day centre as well as housing facilities for women and children. UNHCR is concerned with respect to the situation of male migrants who will remain without shelter solutions. Photographer Julien Pebrel recently went to Calais to document their lives in dire sites such as the Vandamme squat and next to the Tioxide factory.

Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

Iraq Crisis: Finding a Place to Stay

Tens of thousands of people have fled to Erbil and Duhok governorates in Iraq's Kurdistan region over the past week, sheltering in schools, mosques, churches and temporary camps following a surge of violence in parts of central and northern Iraq. UNHCR and its partners have been working to meet the urgent shelter needs. The refugee agency has delivered close to 1,000 tents to a transit camp being built by the authorities and NGOs at Garmawa, near Duhok.

Many of the people arriving from Mosul at checkpoints between Ninewa and governorate and Iraq's Kurdistan region have limited resources and cannot afford to pay for shelter. Some people stay with family, while others are staying in hotels and using up their meagre funds.

In the village of Alqosh, some 150 people from 20 families, with little more than the clothes on their back, have been living in several overcrowded classrooms in a primary school for the past week. One member of the group said they had lived in a rented apartment in Mosul and led a normal family life. But in Alqosh, they feared for the welfare and education of their children and the presence of snakes and scorpions.

Iraq Crisis: Finding a Place to Stay

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Croatia: Sunday Train Arrivals

On Sunday a train of 1800 refugees and migrants made their way north from the town of Tovarnik on Croatia's Serbian border. They disembarked at Cakovec just south of Slovenia. Most of the people are Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi. Their route to Western Europe has been stalled due to the closing of Hungarian borders. Now the people have changed their path that takes through Slovenia. Croatia granted passage to over 10,000 refugees this weekend. Croatian authorities asked Slovenia to take 5000 refugees and migrants per day. Slovenia agreed to take half that number. More than a thousand of desperate people are being backed up as result, with more expected to arrive later Monday.
Germany: Refugees CrossingPlay video

Germany: Refugees Crossing

With a huge influx of migrants and refugees heading towards Germany, a bottleneck has appeared at the border with Austria, between Freilassing and Salzburg. Around 1500 people are in the camps on the Salzburg side, waiting for entry into Germany.
Iraq: Heartbreak at the BorderPlay video

Iraq: Heartbreak at the Border

As the Syria crisis enters a fifth year, Syrians continue to seek safety abroad. But desperation is driving some to return to their war-torn country.