Northern Iraq seeks more aid for Syrian Refugees

Source: IOM Press briefing notes

12 June 2012

Spokesperson: Chris Lom

The Kurdish Regional Government in Northern Iraq has appealed to IOM and other international agencies for more help to cope with growing numbers of refugees arriving from Syria.

According to Shakir Yasseen Yasseen, Director General of the Regional Government’s Bureau of Migration and Development (BMD), the number of Syrian refugees sheltering in Kurdistan’s Domiz refugee camp near Dahuk has increased to over 3,500 in the past month.

“With the help of international agencies we have managed to provide them with basic necessities, including shelter, food and water since the camp opened at the beginning of April. But our prognosis is that they will not be going back home anytime soon,” he says.

According to the latest BMD statistics, there are now over 5,300 Syrian refugees in Northern Iraq.  By the end of May 4,413 had registered with UNHCR and another 425 were waiting for registration.

Refugees not living in Domiz camp are mainly staying with relatives or in local mosques in Sulaymaniyah and Erbil Governorates, according to Mr Shakir.

An IOM-conducted assessment of 180 families in Domiz Camp last week showed that virtually all the refugees were Kurdish Sunni Muslims and had fled from the Syrian governorates of Hasaka, Halab, Damascus and Reef Dimashq.They cited escalating security problems and the rapidly deteriorating economic situation as their primary reasons for leaving Syria. Some male refugees said that they left to avoid involvement in the conflict or to avoid being drafted into the army or police force. The vast majority were uncertain about their futures and wanted to return home, but did not expect to do so in the near future. Many of the refugees said that they crossed the Syria-Iraq border illegally, traveling on foot and by car with the help of hired smugglers. Several said that the fee for a family to be smuggled across the border is now USD 300. 

As Kurds, they said that preferred to seek shelter in Kurdish Regional Government-controlled Northern Iraq, but other Kurdish families had sought shelter in neighbouring countries or been split up by the conflict.

“We have a mother with three of her kids in Domiz, while her husband and her two other kids are in a refugee camp in Lebanon.  They were split up by the smugglers. The husband is still trying to figure out how to get here,” said Government Emergency Cell Liaison Officer for Dahuk Niyaz Noori Bamary.

While the camp now provides basic amenities for the refugees, including a 21,000 liter water tank constructed by IOM in April with funding from Slovakia, it still lacks numerous services including medical facilities and adequate water and sanitation, according to Mr Bamary.

He lists a need for up to three more water tanks, a pipe network, an adequate sewage system, cement flooring to safeguard the camp from mud during the winter and livelihood support to help the refugees to start small businesses and improve their economic situation.

To date, IOM, in coordination with UNHCR, has distributed non-food relief items to a total of 1,773 people in the camp, including cooking stoves, gas cylinders, water filters, rechargeable lights and bedding.

As part of the Syria Regional Response Plan (SRRP), IOM Iraq appealed for USD 2 million to help Syrian refugees from June through December 2012. To date it has not received any SRRP contributions from donors.

To watch three short videos from Domiz camp, please click here.