Affordable shelter needed urgently for Iraq's newly displaced

Briefing Notes, 13 June 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 13 June 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

A shortage of shelter is emerging as a key challenge for the several hundred thousand Iraqis who have fled this week's violence in Mosul to Iraq's Kurdistan region.

UNHCR monitoring teams report that many of the 300,000 people being reported by local authorities to have sought safety in the Erbil and Duhok governorates arrived with little more than the clothes they were wearing. Many people have no money, and nowhere to go. While some stay with relatives, others are temporarily in hotels where they are exhausting what funds they have. Many families in Duhok are also sheltering in schools, mosques, churches and unfinished buildings.

A growing number of people are now staying in a hastily set-up transit camp near the Khazair checkpoint, some 40 kilometers from Mosul. Over the past two days, UNHCR has helped the government pitch tents there, and is providing plastic sheets, hygiene kits and other relief items to the displaced. The host communities are providing hot meals and other food. Sister UN agencies are installing latrines and water tanks, and providing other relief items.

UNHCR has also delivered close to a thousand family tents to a new camp being built by authorities and NGOs at Garmawa, near Duhok in the Kurdistan region. Teams started raising tents yesterday, and we expect the camp will initially host some 3,000 people. Planning is underway for two more sites in Minara, south of the Bedrike checkpoint and Zummar, near Sehela, in case they are needed.

This weekend, UNHCR protection teams will be gathering more information on where other displaced people are staying, and how we can best meet their needs. We are also identifying the most vulnerable among the displaced, such as the elderly, disabled, pregnant women and children, and reaching out to other humanitarian groups to provide immediate emergency support.

While the rate of new arrivals to the Kurdistan region has slowed over the last day or so, the situation remains fluid with fighting continuing on several fronts and further displacement could take place. Other displaced people are spread out beyond the Kurdistan region with some going to Baghdad and elsewhere, while others have remained in Ninewa province. Our monitoring teams at checkpoints observe that some Mosul families are returning after hearing that water and electricity services have been restored. Others say they are returning because they ran out of money, and prefer to return home than stay in mosques, empty buildings or other collective shelters.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Baghdad, Ned Colt on mobile, +964 780 917 4173
  • In Erbil, Catherine Robinson on mobile, +964 771 99 45 693
  • In Erbil, Liene Veide on mobile +964 771 842 2682
  • In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • In Geneva, Ariane Rummery on mobile +41 79 200 7617
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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.

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