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

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora