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Sharp increase in Iraqi refugees fleeing ISIS into Jordan and Turkey

Briefing notes

Sharp increase in Iraqi refugees fleeing ISIS into Jordan and Turkey

23 September 2014

In Jordan, UNHCR has witnessed a sharp increase in Iraqi refugees in recent weeks with 60 per cent of them citing fears of ISIS as the reason for their flight. In August and September, on average, 120 Iraqis per day have registered with UNHCR in Jordan, up from 65 per day in June and July and just 30 per day in the first five months of 2014.

Almost two thirds of new arrivals (60 per cent) hail from ISIS-controlled areas in Ninevah, Salah Al Din and Anbar governorates. Refugees report their homes being burned, threat of forced conversion to Islam, fears of forced marriage, kidnapping and public threats. The rest of the newly arriving refugees in Jordan have fled sectarian violence in Baghdad and Basra.

One father of three, a 32-year-old primary school teacher, told UNHCR how he saved his family from ISIS leaving their home in Tal Usquf (some 35 kilometres from Mosul) during the dark of night on foot. The family of five carried just one bag between them containing their life's documents - a marriage certificate, passports, proof of school enrolments.

The man, whom we are calling Jassim, told UNHCR that his daughters 'cried all the way'. Two of his children were preparing for their final exams in high school, their education now on hold. Like many families who fled from violence on foot, Jassim had to leave behind an elderly relative - an uncle, confined to a wheel chair since birth - whom he has learned since died in Ninevah.

So far this year, 10,644 Iraqi refugees have registered with UNHCR in Jordan, with 1,383 registering in August alone - the highest monthly tally of new registrations since 2007.

Also in Jordan, for the first time since the Syrian war began more than three years ago, refugees from the northern governorates of the country - including from Raqqa - make up the majority of new arrivals. In the past, refugees from southern Syria (Dara'a) have been more prevalent.

New arrivals continue to stream into Jordan, with a daily average of 250 people a day seeking asylum through the northeastern borders of Ruwashid. The number of refugees seeking asylum in Jordan because of ISIS is on the increase, with 46 per cent of new arrivals in the past week citing this as the reason for their flight.

Meanwhile in Turkey, some 103,000 Iraqi refugees have come forward to be registered by UNHCR or its partners, including 65,000 since June 2014 when ISIS forces took over Mosul and surrounds in Nineva governorate of northern Iraq. We know many thousands more are in the eastern part of Turkey and have yet to come forward for registration.

Last month, UNHCR carried out a profiling exercise among more than 2,500 Iraqis seeking to be registered with UNHCR's partner in Ankara. Almost half of those interviewed said they had escaped ISIS attacks, while another 20 per cent said they fled for fear of ISIS attacks. A further 20 per cent indicated they had escaped sectarian violence. Almost half all interviewed households were Kurdish, while 33 per cent were Arabs.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Turkey, Selin Unal on mobile +90 530 282 7862
  • In Jordan, Aoife Mc Donnell on mobile +962 79 545 0379
  • In Geneva, Ariane Rummery on mobile +41 79 200 7617
  • In Geneva, Melissa Fleming on mobile +41 79 557 9122