UNHCR concerned for Syrian refugees in Iraq as number of arrivals arises

News Stories, 2 April 2013

© UNHCR/B.Sokol
Syrian refugee children play beside tents in Domiz refugee camp.

GENEVA, April 2 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Tuesday warned that with the Syria crisis now into its third year, and refugees continuing to cross borders to neighbouring countries in large numbers, pressure to accommodate refugees is growing.

"UNHCR is particularly concerned at the present situation in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, where refugees are arriving at a rate of 800-900 people per day double the rate of just three months ago," spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva. "The need for space for new camps, and to decongest existing camps is of paramount importance."

Edwards said the situation at Domiz camp, in north-west Iraq's Dohuk governorate, is especially worrying. "The Domiz camp is currently housing 35,000 Syrian refugees and is critically overcrowded. Thousands of families are sharing tents with newly arrived refugees as almost 3,500 families do not have their own shelters.

The crowding is in turn having an impact on sanitation, which is already below humanitarian standards. Congestion and warmer temperatures are increasing vulnerability to outbreaks of diseases as well as to tension between camp residents.

"The number of children below five years of age suffering from diarrhoea in the camp has doubled in recent weeks. Since February, on average nine children out of every 100 suffer from diarrhoea per week," Edwards said. "Additionally, there have been 62 cases of hepatitis A since the beginning of the year. UNHCR, UNICEF and WHO are conducting a joint assessment to address the observed increase."

UNHCR has been working with the government of Iraq and authorities in Kurdistan since last October with a view to ensuring the allocation of more space. Edwards said UNHCR was encouraged by a recent decision by the authorities of Erbil and Sulaymaniya to allocate more space. However, the space offered can accommodate only 25,000 people or one third of the need.

As of March 28, more than 121,000 Syrian refugees had registered in Iraq. More than 90 per cent are hosted in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Most new arrivals are families from Qamishli city, while others come from Al-Hassakeh, Aleppo and Damascus. While refugee camps have been established at Al Qa'im and Dohuk, more than 60 per cent of registered refugees in the Kurdistan Region are being hosted by Iraqi communities or are living in unfinished houses.

UNHCR has a permanent presence at both Domiz and Al Qa'im. "Together with partners and the government, we are responding to the needs of urban refugees and those living in the camps through support to the reception and registration mechanisms, distribution of emergency shelter and essential life sustaining items such as blankets, mattresses and kitchen sets, and help for people to access education, health and other activities," Edwards said.

Last year, almost 5,000 kits with core relief items were distributed to some 7,500 Syrian refugees in Domiz and Al Qa'im. Last winter, UNHCR, partner agencies and the government distributed 25,000 thermal blankets as well as heaters, kerosene and quilts.

Elsewhere in the region the flight of refugees from Syria is continuing. As of March 28, more than 1.21 million Syrians had been registered or were awaiting registration in the region.

Registration is a key tool through which refugees are identified, protected and assisted, and UNHCR has introduced extraordinary measures to expand registration capacities. These have included the establishment of new registration centres, double shifts and emergency procedures, resulting in a significant reduction of the waiting period.




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Thousands of desperate Syrian refugees seek safety in Turkey after outbreak of fresh fighting

Renewed fighting in northern Syria since June 3 has sent a further 23,135 refugees fleeing across the border into Turkey's southern Sanliurfa province. Some 70 per cent of these are women and children, according to information received by UNHCR this week.

Most of the new arrivals are Syrians escaping fighting between rival military forces in and around the key border town of Tel Abyad, which faces Akcakale across the border. They join some 1.77 million Syrian refugees already in Turkey.

However, the influx also includes so far 2,183 Iraqis from the cities of Mosul, Ramadi and Falujjah.

According to UNHCR field staff most of the refugees are exhausted and arrive carrying just a few belongings. Some have walked for days. In recent days, people have fled directly to Akcakale to escape fighting in Tel Abyad which is currently reported to be calm.

Thousands of desperate Syrian refugees seek safety in Turkey after outbreak of fresh fighting

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

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A transit centre at Vinojug, on FYR Macedonia's border with Greece is where the refugees and migrants pass through on their journey further into Europe. Here UNHCR and partner organisations provide food, water, medical care, psycho-social support and information for refugees who take the train towards the border with Serbia. UNHCR also provides information on how to access the asylum system in the country. In recent weeks, an average of 6,300 refugees pass through the camp every day, yesterday that number grew to 10,000, a record.
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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.
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Germany: Refugees Crossing

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