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UNHCR begins moving thousands of Syrian refugees to new camp in Iraq

Making a Difference, 4 October 2013

© UNHCR/L.Veide
Three refugee children explore the new camp at Darashakran in northern Iraq.

DARASHAKRAN, Iraq, October 4 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has this week opened the world's newest refugee camp to help accommodate some of the tens of thousands of people who have fled the fighting inside Syria and sought refuge in northern Iraq during recent months.

On Sunday, UNHCR began moving the first of some 10,000 newly arrived refugees to be housed in Darashakran camp, which could later double in capacity. The first arrivals at the camp in Iraq's Erbil governorate were transferred from a temporary site at Bekhma, where they had been staying in abandoned buildings.

The first residents of the camp were positive about the move. "We thank God and are happy to be here," said Mahmoud, who arrived here on Sunday with his wife and five children. "UNHCR is really taking care of us," he added. Siva, who came with 11 relatives, said: "The first impression is good and we want to have a good life here."

Another refugee, Noh Ahmed, fled with his wife and five children (including four-month-old twins) to Iraq from Hassakeh in northern Syria in mid-August and was staying in Bekhma. "It was good there, but we did not have the same freedom of movement that we have in Darashakran," he said. He was happy also that his children could go to school and said he hoped to find a job.

UNHCR plans to move about 50 families a day (300 people) to the new camp, which has been built by the refugee agency with the support of the Kurdistan Regional Government, other key UN organizations and NGO partners.

The new facility was needed because the only other permanent refugee camp in northern Iraq, Domiz in Dohuk governorate, was severely overcrowded. Built in April last year to provide shelter for 30,000 people, it currently hosts 45,000 mainly Syrian Kurds.

"UNHCR and its partners have spent more than US$6 million preparing Darashakran for its new residents, but we must be prepared for further arrivals of refugees," said Claire Bourgeois, UNHCR's representative in Iraq. "With our donors, UNHCR will work to ensure that Iraq has the capacity to cope with current and future influxes of refugees, but we appeal for borders to be kept open to all persons seeking protection and assistance," she added.

Iraq has been welcoming Syrian refugees since early in the crisis which began in March 2011. But the number of refugees crossing the border rose dramatically last August, when more than 60,000 people flowed into northern Iraq from all parts of Syria.

With the help of the local authorities, temporary sites were prepared to cope with the inflow, including at Kawergosk (12,000 refugees), Qushtapa (3,000) and Basirma (2,500). More than 40,000 other recently arrived Syrian refugees are sheltered in other makeshift sites in Dohuk, Sulemaniyeh and Erbil governorates.

Each family being transferred to the new purpose-built camp is receiving a shelter unit that includes an all-weather tent; separate latrine; bathing area and cooking space to ensure privacy. So far some 2,000 shelters have been erected at Darashakran.

Utilising satellite imagery, geographic information systems, spatial analysis and mapping services, the French aid group ACTED developed a camp master plan to help construction experts establish a site the size of a small town.

UNHCR and its partners have ensured that Darashakran includes community space for psycho-social counselling and an employment centre where residents can learn about jobs in the neighbouring community. All the necessary food distribution facilities, roads, water and sanitation systems have been installed as well as adequate lighting in all public areas.

"The relocation of refugees to the new Darashakran camp is a significant step in the overall response to the needs of Syrian refugees and ensures they have adequate shelter to cope with the region's cold winter months while also providing for their basic needs such as health care and education," said William Tall, head of UNHCR's sub-office in Erbil.

Iraq currently shelters more than 193,000 registered Syrian refugees, mainly in Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyeh governorates, but also in Ninewa and Anbar governorates. UNHCR is coordinating the multi-sectoral refugee response, ensuring protection and assistance for refugees.




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Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and more than 2 million others have fled to nearby countries. While many people were displaced before 2003, increasing numbers of Iraqis are now fleeing escalating sectarian, ethnic and general violence. Since January 2006, UNHCR estimates that more than 800,000 Iraqis have been uprooted and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. UNHCR anticipates there will be approximately 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of 2007. The refugee agency and its partners have provided emergency assistance, shelter and legal aid to displaced Iraqis where security has allowed.

In January 2007, UNHCR launched an initial appeal for US$60 million to fund its Iraq programme. Despite security issues for humanitarian workers inside the country, UNHCR and partners hope to continue helping up to 250,000 of the most vulnerable internally displaced Iraqis and their host communities

Posted on 12 June 2007

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

After Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in Iraq in 2003, groups of refugees who had lived in the country for many years tried to leave the chaos and lawlessness that soon ensued. Hundreds of people started fleeing to the border with Jordan, including Palestinians in Baghdad and Iranian Kurds from the Al Tash refugee camp in central Iraq.

Aside from a few Palestinians with family connections inside the neighbouring country, the refugees were refused entry and free movement in Jordan. Thousands were soon stranded in the no-man's land between Iraq and Jordan or at the desert camp of Ruweished, located 60 kilometres inside Jordan.

Since 2003, Palestinians, Iranian Kurds, Iranians, Sudanese and Somalis have been living there and suffering the scorching heat and freezing winters of the Jordanian desert. UNHCR and its partners have provided housing and assistance and tried to find solutions – the agency has helped resettle more than 1,000 people in third countries. At the beginning of 2007, a total of 119 people – mostly Palestinians – remained in Ruweished camp without any immediate solution in sight.

Posted on 20 February 2007

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

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The UN refugee agency has launched a US$60 million appeal to fund its work helping hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people. The new appeal concludes that unremitting violence in Iraq will likely mean continued mass internal and external displacement affecting much of the surrounding region. The appeal notes that the current exodus is the largest long-term population movement in the Middle East since the displacement of Palestinians following the creation of Israel in 1948.

UNHCR has warned that the longer this conflict goes on, the more difficult it will become for the hundreds of thousands of displaced and the communities that are trying to help them – both inside and outside Iraq. Because the burden on host communities and governments in the region is enormous, it is essential that the international community support humanitarian efforts.

The US$60 million will cover UNHCR's protection and assistance programmes for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey, as well as non-Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people within Iraq itself.

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