News / Middle East

Iraqi Kurdistan Struggles to Cope with Syrian Refugees

Relief organizations say only a fraction of the money needed for the humanitarian response in Iraq this year has materialized. (Phillip Wellman/VOA)
Relief organizations say only a fraction of the money needed for the humanitarian response in Iraq this year has materialized. (Phillip Wellman/VOA)
Phillip Walter Wellman
After years of violence and instability, the Kurdistan region of Iraq has become a safe haven for roughly 150,000 Syrian refugees who have fled civil war in their home country.  Kurdish authorities say the influx of asylum seekers is becoming increasingly difficult to manage, and there are fears a humanitarian crisis may ensue unless outside assistance is stepped up. 

At the Domiz refugee camp, about 20 kilometers from the city of Duhok, resources are at the breaking point and aid workers say conditions are deteriorating by the day.

Afternoon temperatures in the summer exceed 40 degrees Celsius and water supplies are insufficient.  

Due to the overcrowding, officials say an outbreak of measles or other communicable diseases is a growing worry. (Phillip Wellman for VOA)Due to the overcrowding, officials say an outbreak of measles or other communicable diseases is a growing worry. (Phillip Wellman for VOA)
x
Due to the overcrowding, officials say an outbreak of measles or other communicable diseases is a growing worry. (Phillip Wellman for VOA)
Due to the overcrowding, officials say an outbreak of measles or other communicable diseases is a growing worry. (Phillip Wellman for VOA)
The site, set up last year to accommodate 25,000 people, is now hosting about twice that number, with many families doubling up in tents.  The sewage system cannot cope with the demand; the air is malodorous and dry.

Mohamed Hussein, head of the UNHCR office in Duhok, said congestion is a pressing concern.

"It is a worrying factor for health," he explained. "At the moment, we do not see a disaster or any catastrophe like a cholera outbreak, but when such things take place then the impact will be really terrible.  It is just maybe a matter of time."

In addition to those living at Domiz, tens of thousands of Syrians are also residing in Iraqi Kurdistan’s main cities.

A report released last month by the Norwegian Refugee Council suggests some of these urban refugees are living in unsafe buildings and have resorted to begging or prostitution.

"We are doing our best, but we need the help of the international community to reduce the suffering of the refugees," said Hameed Salih, a spokesperson for the Duhok Governorate.

Some refugees sell things on the side of the road to try and generate a small income. Here clothes are being sold.(Phillip Wellman for VOA)Some refugees sell things on the side of the road to try and generate a small income. Here clothes are being sold.(Phillip Wellman for VOA)
x
Some refugees sell things on the side of the road to try and generate a small income. Here clothes are being sold.(Phillip Wellman for VOA)
Some refugees sell things on the side of the road to try and generate a small income. Here clothes are being sold.(Phillip Wellman for VOA)
Iraqi Kurdish authorities have repeatedly voiced frustration at the lack of outside support for the displaced Syrians within their territory.

Observers, such as Mohammed Makki, the head of Islamic Relief’s Iraq mission, accuse many global players of overlooking the refugee response in this part of the world.

"I feel there is a lot of support in Jordan and Lebanon and Turkey, but in Iraq it is not the same," Makki said.  "Really there is a big difference." ​Most of the displaced people entering Iraq from Syria are ethnic Kurds.

Despite limited funds, the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq was quick to allocate $10 million to assist the new arrivals and give them permission to work legally with temporary residence cards.

Ghodar Mohammed Said, who has been living at the Domiz camp for nine months, says despite the difficult conditions, he feels “very welcome.”

But how long this sentiment will last remains unclear.

Some Iraqi Kurds have started to express frustration that foreigners are securing jobs while unemployment among the local population remains relatively high.

With the number of refugees expected to double in northern Iraq by the end of the year, tensions are likely to rise.

A Child living at the Domiz camp. (Phillip Wellman for VOA)A Child living at the Domiz camp. (Phillip Wellman for VOA)
x
A Child living at the Domiz camp. (Phillip Wellman for VOA)
A Child living at the Domiz camp. (Phillip Wellman for VOA)
​Authorities say three new refugee camps are being built, but experts say even these facilities may not be able to cope with rising demand.

Makki, of Islamic Relief, said the problems facing Iraqi Kurdistan and other refugee-hosting areas in the region can be solved only with a solution to end the bloodshed in Syria.

"I encourage the politicians who are in Syria and around the region and around the world to solve this problem and make all the Syrian refugees return back to their country," he said.  "Otherwise this issue will affect all the region, especially as the countries around Syria are not very rich countries.  Iraq already has a lot of problems."

In May, the border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria was closed. Authorities say it will reopen soon and insist the move was not aimed at curbing refugee numbers.

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs