News / Middle East

UNHCR: Kurdish Region Overwhelmed by Influx of Displaced

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, re-enter Iraq from Syria at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province, Aug. 10, 2014.
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, re-enter Iraq from Syria at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province, Aug. 10, 2014.
Lisa Schlein

The U.N. refugee agency reports tens of thousands of people who have escaped from Sinjar Mountain in northwest Iraq through Syria have gone back into Iraq’s Kurdish region over the past three days.  The UNHCR warns the deepening displacement crisis brought on by the onslaught of militants in northern Iraq is overwhelming the ability of aid agencies to respond to the growing humanitarian needs.    

The refugee agency reports as many as 35,000 people from the minority Yazidi religious group has arrived in the Dohuk governorate of the Kurdish Region of Iraq.  The group recently fled Islamist militants who threatened to kill them if they did not convert to Islam.

Many who fled to the barren Sinjar mountains remain stranded there, while others have managed to escape to Syria and, have now arrived back in Iraq's Kurdish territory.  Aid workers describe the new arrivals as exhausted and dehydrated.  They say many have suffered sun or heat stroke, with daily temperatures reaching 40 to 50 degrees Celsius.

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards says up to 30,000 Yazidi remain trapped on Sinjar Mountain without food, water or shelter.  He says access to them is extremely limited.  He tells VOA the situation is very fluid and the numbers of displaced continue to rise.  

“They are in an extremely precarious situation…The risk is the conditions that they are in -- extreme heat.  People are arriving now very dehydrated," he said. "They are in urgent need of medical help, of food, of water, of other attention.  And I think those are the two things we are focused on -- both the risk from the security side and the risk to them of this extremely hot and difficult and hard to reach situation…We are trying to do…what we can simply address the enormous humanitarian needs.”  

There now are more than 1.2 million internally displaced people in Iraq, including an estimated 700,000 in the Kurdish region.  This is in addition to the 225,000 Syrian refugees who had earlier fled there from the civil war in their country.

The Iraqi city of Zakho, close to the Turkish border, has a population of 350,000.  The UNHCR says Zakho is hosting some 100,000 displaced people, mainly from Sinjar and Zumar who have fled there over the past week.

Refugee spokesman Edwards says Dohuk governorate is hosting close to 400,000 displaced Iraqis.  They include Yazidis, Christians, Shabak, Kakai, Armenian and Turkman minorities.  He says some have been displaced several times.

“They are scattered across hundreds of sites.  Some people are staying with relatives.  Others are in schools, churches, mosques, other communal buildings," he said. "UNHCR is distributing blankets, emergency relief kits, household aid to people in these locations.  We are also seeing enormous generosity by the local community who are themselves handing out aid to people.”

Edwards says between 7,000 and 10,000 displaced Iraqis are staying at a camp, which formerly served as a reception center for Syrian refugees.  He says conditions are very crowded, but the camp has basic facilities, such as water, electricity, and other essential infrastructure.  He says three more camps are being planned to house more displaced people in several cities in Dohuk governorate.

You May Like

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More