News / Middle East

Syrian Refugees Flee to Iraq by Barge

FILE - Umm Mohammed, 68, cries during an interview with The Associated Press as hundreds of Syrian women stand in line waiting to collect aid from relief agencies helping Syrian refugees.
FILE - Umm Mohammed, 68, cries during an interview with The Associated Press as hundreds of Syrian women stand in line waiting to collect aid from relief agencies helping Syrian refugees.
Lisa Schlein
The U.N. refugee agency reports more than 2,500 Syrians fled by barge into Iraq’s Kurdistan region on Sunday.  According to UNHCR, this is the first large-scale crossing of refugees since Iraq closed its border with Syria in mid-September.

Border crossings between Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria closed more than three months ago following an exodus of some 60,000 Syrian refugees. A pontoon bridge, which had been the main mode of escape, is not now in use.

As a consequence, the U.N. refugee agency reports this recent group of Syrians piled into small barges to flee into Iraq.  The agency says each barge carried between 10 and 30 people and that the journey from Simelka, on the Syrian side of the river, took about 20 minutes.

UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the Syrians were allowed to cross into Kurdistan due to a new, more flexible approach adopted by the Iraqi authorities.

“They are allowing Syrians a seven-day time period to come across and spend time in the country and shop," Fleming explained. "It seems that a lot of them are buying things, buying supplies -- much needed supplies and going back. Those who want to stay beyond the seven days need to legalize their stay, request status as refugees and then they will be taken to one of UNHCR’s camps.”

Fleming said most of the people seem keen to return to Syria. She said UNHCR staff saw about 350 of the new arrivals load barges on Monday - a day after they arrived - and go back to Syria with generators, kerosene heaters and other supplies.

She added that about 400 other people who requested asylum were taken to one of UNHCR’s refugee camps.  The agency operates 13 camps or transit sites for Syrian refugees in Iraq's Kurdistan region and one in western Anbar Province.  Iraq hosts 210,000 registered Syrian refugees.

In addition to the refugee crisis, Fleming says the UNHCR is concerned about the growing number of people fleeing violence in the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.  Iraqi government forces want to retake the cities from al-Qaida - linked Islamist militants.

Fleming said the UNHCR is ready to assess the needs of the displaced people and help them.

“People who are uprooted in an instant very often flee with just the clothes on their backs even if it is in their own countries," she noted. "We have heard that they are sheltering with other families, but also in public buildings and very much could be in need of supplies.”

Iraq already has more than one million internally displaced people who fled their homes during sectarian violence between 2006 and 2008.  Most are living in Baghdad, Diyala and Ninewa.

Meanwhile, international agencies including the UNHCR and U.N. Children’s Fund are proposing a $1 billion investment strategy to prevent, what they call, a lost generation of Syrian children, affected by the turmoil of the Syrian civil war.

This appeal comes one week ahead of a major donor conference in Kuwait for humanitarian aid to Syria.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid