A new camp for the displaced springs up in Iraq's Kurdistan region

News Stories, 26 June 2014

© UNHCR/R.Hussein
Saleh and his family inside their tent in Garmawa camp after escaping when fighting reached the city of Tal Afar. They drove in a packed minibus to the Bedrike checkpoint in Duhok governorate in Iraq's Kurdistan region of Iraq.

GARMAWA, Iraq, June 26 (UNHCR) A week ago, there were 50 Iraqi families at the Garmawa camp for Iraqis displaced by fresh conflict; today, it is home to 173 families, or more than 1,000 uprooted civilians. More are arriving every day as conditions at the camp in Iraq's Kurdistan region improve.

While accurate numbers are difficult to obtain, government officials say at least 300,000 people have temporarily settled in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. They are coming not only from Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, but also from other communities.

Saleh, his wife and eight children fled from the city of Tal Afar, 50 kilometres west of Mosul. "I escaped immediately after the fighting started," he says from his temporary home, a UNHCR tent in the Garmawa camp for the internally displaced.

Kurdistan regional government officials started creating Garmawa almost two weeks ago, as soon as it was clear that many of those fleeing the fighting were heading to the comparatively peaceful northern region.

The camp has come a long way in those two weeks. What was a vacant piece of land earlier this month now holds 1,100 UNHCR tents and the refugee agency has distributed mattresses and blankets. There is electricity, water, latrines and washing facilities. The most recent improvement is a small primary health care centre provided by the government and staffed with two doctors, a pharmacist and a nurse.

Iraq's newest wave of internally displaced people (IDPs) is now scattered across the country, but most of the IDPs are in the Kurdistan region.

One camp will not be enough, so the regional government and its humanitarian aid partners intend to build more. One camp housing 2,500 displaced has already taken shape in a former wheat field at Khazair, south of Erbil. Three more are under construction or in the planning stages.

"We are deeply involved in coordination activities and the operational response to this crisis," says UNHCR Senior Field Coordinator Andrei Kazakov. "UNHCR is working in three critical aid sectors, providing protection, shelter and emergency [relief] items to the displaced. We have to remember, most fled with nothing."

UNHCR protection teams have fanned out across the region to gather information on where IDPs are settling and what they most need. They have met with more than 6,600 families. That information is then shared with other humanitarian agencies so the overall response can be swift, efficient and far-reaching.

But Saleh and others may be here for a while. "I am not planning to take my family back to my town before it is entirely safe and secure," he says in Garmawa, where the displaced at least have shelter, food, water and safety. For parents like Saleh, concerned about their loved ones, those are essential attributes.

By Husam Eldin Mustafa and Rasheed Hussein in Garmawa, Iraq




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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

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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.

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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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