UNHCR responds to massive displacement of Iraqis from Mosul

News Stories, 11 June 2014

© UNHCR/R.Nuri
Bushra (centre right) rests with her husband and family members in the shadow of a building in Iraq's Kurdistan region. They walked from their farm near Mosul to a checkpoint near the Kurdistan region's Erbil city. The family fled with almost no belongings.

ERBIL, Iraq, June 11 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said today it was immediately stepping up its aid efforts in Iraq in response to the new massive displacement of people from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and other areas.

UNHCR protection teams have been on the ground to monitor the outflow and assist those in need, and urgent additional funding is being sought. One protection officer said UNHCR was working to provide shelter, protection and emergency items, including tents to some of the many thousands of people believed to have fled from Iraq's second largest city.

"The needs are immense," said Gemma Woods. "While the numbers of those crossing from Ninewa governorate into Iraq's Kurdistan region today were visibly less than the long line of cars and pedestrians I witnessed yesterday, thousands continue to flee," she added.

The exodus from Mosul, which began earlier this week, follows massive displacement this year in the western Iraqi governorate of Anbar, where fighting since January has forced some half-a-million people to flee the province or seek shelter in safer areas. Local authorities say that as a result of the new outflows from Mosul a further 300,000 additional people have arrived in the past days.

Earlier on Wednesday, UNHCR protection staff monitoring checkpoints between Ninewa governorate and the Kurdistan region, reported that many of those fleeing had no belongings and lacked money for housing, food, water or medical care. They arrive at checkpoints with no idea of where to go next, or how to pay expenses.

UN agencies, humanitarian groups, and government officials are coordinating efforts to do what they can to aid those in need. UN agencies are making an emergency request for additional support for up to half a million additional people as a result of this crisis. Of that, UNHCR is hoping to provide emergency kits, including kitchen and hygiene items, as well as thousands of tents. UNHCR and its partners will also be working to protect and help the displaced.

The protection officer said the situation was less chaotic on Wednesday than Tuesday. "Yesterday it was a wave of humanity, a mass exodus, and those crossing were visibly panicked. They were packed into cars and buses under the harsh sun, and thousands were crossing on foot. Today, the numbers had lessened considerably, but the anxiety was still palpable," she said.

"One family stands out in my mind. There were 12 of them, including a 70 year old grandmother, who had travelled on foot for two days from their farm outside of Mosul. Once they reached the checkpoint, they had no inkling of what they might do next. They were out of money and had nowhere to go," the staff member said.

"These are the most vulnerable; and I saw and spoke with many in similar straits. They fled with the clothes on their backs, a bit of cash in their pockets, and nothing else. We must do all we can to provide shelter, food, water and medical care in the days ahead."

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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

Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

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.

Posted on 10 January 2007

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