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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid