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Influx of Arab Refugees Stirs Concern in Iraqi Kurdish City

More than 2 million internally displaced persons are settled in cities, towns and camps in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. The city of Shaqlawa has seen its population more than double with the addition of more than 26,000 Arab refugees and displaced persons.

“Naturally, because so many refugees live here, there are a number of challenges — health, water supply, sanitation, rising house rents," said Rizgar Hassan, the city's mayor.

Some residents of the city complain that Arabs are taking all the available jobs.

“Let’s have a camp for them where they can work," said resident Ako Karim, "and we will work for ourselves.”

Arabs say they feel comfortable in Shaqlawa, because so many others fleeing violence in other parts of Iraq have already settled in the city.

“The way people of Shaqlawa and Kurdistan region treat us, we feel like we are in Fallujah," said refugee Hatim Jamil.

Referring to the origins of the new Arab arrivals, some people in Shaqlawa have begun calling their city "Shaq-lujah."

Kurds are now a minority in Shaqlawa, and many say they are considering moving to other parts of Iraqi Kurdistan. They are asking the regional government to address the issue as soon as possible.

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