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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid