A senior United Nations official says thousands of Iraqis are likely to flee to Europe in search of asylum as conditions in their country worsen and they lose hope of any changes for the better.
Saying the situation in the country is deteriorating, Dominik Bartsch, the U.N. deputy humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, says 10 million Iraqis, more than one quarter of the population, will need some form of humanitarian aid to survive by the end of the year.
He says this figure includes 3.2 million internally displaced people and people living in areas controlled by the so-called Islamic State group, known as ISIL or ISIS. He says the crisis has accelerated since the group seized large portions of Iraq last year.
Since then, he says a counteroffensive by Iraqi security forces with the support of a U.S.-led coalition has added to the displacement.
“There is new displacement happening every day out of Anbar province. We are looking at preparedness for what likely may be a much larger flow," he said. "You all heard of Mosul, the second largest city of Iraq under control of ISIL ... If a counteroffensive is launched against Mosul, that inevitably will affect the civilian population and we anticipate that close to half a million will then be displaced.”
Bartsch says only 10 percent of the internally displaced Iraqis are living in camps. The majority is staying with family and friends or squatting in half-finished buildings.
Bartsch also says a cholera outbreak last week is now confirmed and likely to spread. He says 77 health ports have been closed for lack of money, and that food and water supplies have been drastically reduced. He says the United Nations is cash-strapped and has had to radically cut back on basic services.
The U.N. official also notes many Iraqi children have been out of school for more than a year. He says the inability of parents to provide them with an education is contributing to the decision by many to leave. He says thousands of desperate people who see no hope for their future are likely to join the ongoing exodus.