Sign In / Up

Add contribution as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment

Comment as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment

Login

Not a member Register   Forgot Password
or connect using
 

Email

 

Rudaw

Kurdistan

Iraqi Kurdistan Welcoming but Overwhelmed by Syria Refugees

By Armando Cordoba 13/8/2013
The Domiz Camp, near Duhok, has been drastically overcrowded, housing around 35,000 refugees in a facility which was supposed to house only 15,000. Photo: AFP
The Domiz Camp, near Duhok, has been drastically overcrowded, housing around 35,000 refugees in a facility which was supposed to house only 15,000. Photo: AFP

 

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region has tried its best to deal with the huge influx of war refugees from across the border in Syria, but its young government does not have the experience or structure to deal with such a crisis and is simply overwhelmed, according to the UN and Norwegian refugee agencies.

“It’s a new government and new governments may not have the bureaucratic structure to deal with a situation such as this, which they have never seen before,” said William Tall, the new head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) North.

He said that the UN is working with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to tackle the already 160,000 displaced Syrian refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Tall said the ideal solution would be to return the displaced Syrian refugees back into their homes in Syria as the situation calms, but the civil war seems to have no solution in sight.

“Everyone’s pessimistic about what’s happening in Syria,” he said.

A July report by the UNHCR found that the KRG was initially “very welcoming,” issuing residency permits that allowed refugees to work and move freely around the three-province enclave, where the Kurds have enjoyed autonomy in earnest since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

But the report said, “There are signs that official policy is becoming more restrictive,” as the scale of the influx “exceeded all expectations, and as international funding has failed to keep pace with refugee needs.”

“It’s like a guest in your house, you’re welcome for a while, but you can’t live here. I think that’s a typical attitude toward refugee situations,” Tall said. “We totally understand this.”

Iraq’s Kurds share ethnic ties with other Kurds in the Middle East, including Syria, where the large minority Kurds have so far largely stayed out of a civil war that is in its third year. Kurdish groups in Syria have clashed with Islamist fighters who are reportedly affiliated with Al-Qaida.

According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, “In late 2012 and early 2013, the authorities began expressing frustration at the lack of international funding and support. Faced with huge daily increases in refugee numbers and without prior experience or technical capacity to draw on, KR-I (Kurdistan Region-Iraq) authorities have been overwhelmed.”

The Norwegian council also cited the need for increased cooperation between the UNHCR and the KRG in order to properly assess the problem.

Tall said UNHCR North has been awarded about $35 million for the Syrian refugee crisis in Erbil and another $8 million for various other projects.

“If we need more we will ask for more. We are not going to let the budget be the constraint,” he vowed.

The KRG at first was open to contributing funds into the system, and at one point Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani put $10 million into the crisis. Millions more were initially poured in by the government.

The KRG also set up the Domiz Camp when Syrian refugees began to cross the border into Kurdistan.

But since the political situation between Kurdistan and Baghdad began to worsen, and Erbil was faced with a budget crunch, the KRG has not allocated more funds to the refugee crisis, according to the Norwegian council.

Tall said the KRG faces the dilemma of providing acceptable conditions for refugees, while taking care that the refugees do not become so comfortable that they will not want to return to their homes.

Already, many refugees have gone outside the boundaries of the Domiz Camp, with about 90,000 refugees located in towns and cities, including Erbil.

These refugees often occupy public space often propping up their own tents and homes along city streets in Erbil. Tall said that the KRG’s “patience is running thin with this.”

The KRG has refused to aid refugees living outside the camps, and has placed restrictions on the guidelines of the residency visas issued to refugees, according to the report.

About 50 to 60 Syrian individuals are still crossing the border daily into Iraqi Kurdistan as a result of the Syrian civil war, according to UNHCR North, most of them Syrian Kurds.

An estimated two million Syrians have fled the civil war to various countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey – besides Iraq, where most are in the Kurdistan Region.

The Domiz Camp, near Duhok, has been drastically overcrowded, housing around 35,000 refugees in a facility which was supposed to house only 15,000. Two more camps are planned, in Erbil and Sulaimaini, with a total capacity of more than 20,000.

 

Tags :
Print Email to a friend
Save this story
2546 Views

Be Part of Your Rudaw!

Share your stories, photos and videos with Rudaw, and quite possibly the world.

What You Say

Shwan | 3/6/2015 8:27:41 PM
Thank you Richard for your great article, indeed I myself and I am sure many more Kurds have heard, read or watched a movie about "The Siege of...
Ahlan wa Sahlan | 3/6/2015 10:02:40 PM
Another native San Antonio Texan here! The Kuedish people have suffered so much, for so long and at the hands of so many religions and cultures. ...
Kurds are defending the Alamo, Texans would be proud
| 8 hours ago | (8)
Bapeer | 3/6/2015 5:46:44 PM
Rudaaw should not refer to the Kurdish people and nation as "Kurdish population". That is the lexicon of Kurdophobes! cheers Aras
Remo K | 3/6/2015 9:54:47 PM
Here we go again.. Another outsider, albeit an important one, is attempting to influence the Kurdish future by sticking to well rehearsed "Stability...
US General: Kurdistan’s struggle as ‘poster child’ of Iraq
| 16 hours ago | (8)
Eddie Mann | 3/6/2015 6:25:26 AM
I am aware that the Kurds / Peshmerga are not to blame for the current war - the Kurds are battling to survive. I have been supporting you for that....
Eddie Mann | 3/6/2015 9:51:12 PM
Aqeel Siddiqui - I agree with you. UNITY in the Middle East equals strength. Get rid of Daesh and then get rid of the other brutal regimes, foreign...
PMF: ISIS on the run as Iraqi forces near Tikrit
| 4/3/2015 | (17)
Hassan Etiti | 3/6/2015 7:33:40 PM
I think we should declare independence now and NOT after IS has been defeated (and the international community no longer need) and the Iraqi army has...
boco | 3/6/2015 9:06:16 PM
southern and rojawa kuridistan are already independent, the problem is not the world, the problem is our political parties with each having their...
Deputy speaker: 28 countries support free Kurdistan
| 12 hours ago | (15)

Elsewhere on Rudaw

Jolie opens UK academic center studying women in conflict 11/2/2015 | (3)

Jolie opens UK academic center studying women in conflict

Angelina Jolie has opened an academic center more
What Is Turkey's Future Under Erdogan? 27/1/2015 | (18)

What Is Turkey's Future Under Erdogan?

Where will his worldview take Turkey and the more
State Department: US Has no Ban on Oil Sales from Any Part of Iraq 1/8/2014 | (40)

State Department: US Has no Ban on Oil Sales from Any Part of Iraq

“Iraq’s energy resources belong to all of the more
0.188 seconds