Thousands find shelter in Iraqi Kurdistan after escaping Mount Sinjar

News Stories, 12 August 2014

© AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE
A displaced Iraqi man from the Yazidi community carries his daughter as they cross the Iraqi-Syrian border.

ERBIL, Iraq, 2014 (UNHCR) Thousands of people have managed to reach northern Iraq's Kurdistan region via Syria over the past three days after escaping from Mount Sinjar, where they faced starvation, lack of water, and threats to their safety.

The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that its NGO partners estimated that as many as 35,000 people had managed to reach Iraqi Kurdistan's Dohuk governorate. "The new arrivals are exhausted, dehydrated and many have suffered sun or heat stroke, with the daily temperatures reaching 40 to 45 degrees Celsius," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said in Geneva.

People are moving to places such as Zakho and Dohuk town, where 16 school buildings have been made available. Food, water and medical care are being provided. As of now, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people remain trapped on Sinjar Mountain without food, water or shelter. Access to these families is extremely limited.

According to the mayor of Zakho, his city of 350,000 people located just a few kilometres from the Turkish border, is hosting some 100,000 displaced people, mainly from Sinjar and Zumar, who have fled there over the past week. The local authorities have opened schools and community buildings to house the displaced, who are also taking shelter under bridges and in unfinished buildings.

Dohuk governorate is now hosting close to 400,000 displaced Iraqis, including Yazidis, Christians, Shabak, Kakai, Armenian and Turkmen minorities some of whom have endured repeated displacement.

"Many are now in the towns of Khanke, Shariya, Zahko, Shekhan and in and around Dohuk town. They are scattered across hundreds of sites. Some are staying with relatives, others are in schools, churches, mosques, parks and shells of apartment buildings without water or electricity," Edwards said.

He added that UNHCR was distributing mattresses, blankets, emergency relief kits, household items and hygiene kits to locations in Dohuk, Zakho and elsewhere. "We are also witnessing enormous generosity by the local community who are spontaneously handing out aid," Edwards noted.

Between 7,000 to 10,000 people are staying at the Bajet Kandela camp a former reception centre for Syrian refugees, most of whom passed through there two years ago after crossing the border at Peshkhabour. While basic facilities are in place, conditions are crowded and local NGOs have been installing family tents wherever space could be found. Site preparations have been completed to extend the camp, and another 5,000 tents are being added to the camp, which has water, electricity, and other essential infrastructure.

Three more camps are being planned in Dohuk governorate at Zakho, Shariya and Khanke. The Turkish government is expected to being work on the Zakho and Shariya camps soon, while site preparation for Khanke has started with UNHCR technical help and construction is expected to begin next week.

In all, there are more than 1.2 million internally displaced people in Iraq, including an estimated 700,000 in the Kurdistan region, which already hosts some 220,000 Syrian refugees.

Meanwhile, another 10,000 to 15,000 Yazidi Iraqis fleeing Sinjar have arrived in Syria. Most are staying in the Newroz camp near Al Qamishli, run by local NGOs. Other refugees are scattered among various Yazidi villages in Qahtania or urban areas.

"UNCHR teams from our Qamishli field office in Syria carried out an assessment mission to Qahtania on Saturday, and provided aid to hundreds of families staying in three villages and a local school. We also distributed tents, hygiene kits, sleeping mats, and other relief items to refugees staying in the Newroz camp which is now overcrowded with people hundreds are sleeping in the open and more shelter and food aid is needed urgently," spokesman Edwards said in Geneva.

Both refugees and local communities report that more refugees are on the way. UNHCR field teams report seeing local people from nearby villagers distributing water and basic foods to the refugees on their journey.

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Iraq Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Iraq.

Donate to this crisis

CAR Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Central African Republic.

Donate to this crisis

Syrians stream from their war-torn country into Iraq's Kurdistan region

Thousands of Syrians streamed across a bridge over the Tigris River and into Iraq's Kurdistan region on Thursday, August 15th. UNHCR Field Officer, Galiya Gubaeva, was on the ground with her camera.

Syrians stream from their war-torn country into Iraq's Kurdistan region

Iraq: Massive displacement from Mosul

In the past few days, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have fled fighting in the northern city of Mosul and other areas. UNHCR staff are on the ground to monitor the outflow and help those in need. The needs are immense, but UNHCR is working to provide shelter, protection, and emergency items, including tents. Many of the displaced left their homes without belongings and some lack money for housing, food, water or medical care. They arrive at checkpoints between Ninewa governorate and the Kurdistan region 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. UNHCR is hoping to provide emergency kits as well as thousands of tents. UNHCR and its partners will also be working to protect and help the displaced.

The exodus in the north comes on top of 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.

Iraq: Massive displacement from Mosul

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.

Iraq Crisis: Finding a Place to Stay

Iraq: Breaking BreadPlay video

Iraq: Breaking Bread

Shareef fled to Iraq a year ago to escape the violence in Syria. He opened a bakery, which has done great business. When he heard about a new wave of displacement in northern Iraq in August, he decided to help those in need by providing bread.
Iraq: Moving to a New Camp in KhankePlay video

Iraq: Moving to a New Camp in Khanke

A new camp for displaced people is taking shape in the village of Khanke in Iraq's Kurdistan region, with the help of UNHCR and its partners. After weeks of uncomfortable living in the courtyard of an old public building, Chenar and her ethnic Yazidi family are looking forward to moving to the new facility.
Iraq: Massive UNHCR Aid OperationPlay video

Iraq: Massive UNHCR Aid Operation

The UN refugee agency is conducting a massive aid operation to assist some 500,000 Iraqis displaced by conflict in northern Iraq. It includes airlifts, and transport of aid by road and sea.