Failing Syrian Refugees in Iraq’s Kurdish Region: International actors can do more

from Norwegian Refugee Council
Published on 28 Jun 2013

Alarming conditions for Syrian refugees in Iraq

The International Community is failing to aid the Syrian refugees in the Kurdish region of Iraq, according to a new report from the Norwegian Refugee Council. “The situation in Domiz refugee camp is alarming and deteriorating day by day”, says Acting Secretary General Toril Brekke.

More than 160.000 Syrian refugees are currently seeking safety in Iraq, most of them in the Kurdish region. Domiz refugee camp, the only existing camp for Syrian refugees, is severely overcrowded. Infrastructure, including facilities for water and sanitation, are alarmingly insufficient, and ditches full of dirty water throughout the camp increases the risk of water borne diseases. In addition to the people in the camps, some 90.000 refugees are scattered in and around urban centres in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The refugees in the urban areas are receiving very limited support. The most vulnerable of them have no resources and no employment. Some of these refugees have occupied unfinished construction sites, and turned to begging and prostitution to survive. This does not only put them in danger, but also contributes to the development of negative perceptions and attitudes from the host communities and local authorities.

“The Kurdish authorities have not received sufficient International support; neither financially, nor in the form of technical expertise to handle the refugee crisis. The assistance should be stepped up immediately to avoid a humanitarian crisis”, says Brekke. In no other country bordering Syria has the appeal for financial support been equally underfunded. Only 14 per cent of the money needed for the humanitarian response in Iraq this year has materialized.

“The Syrian refugees have the same right to vital assistance, wherever they flee to seek protection. However, it has unfortunately due to various political and economic reasons been very difficult to attract funding to the projects in Iraq, and the refugees are the ones paying the price”, says Brekke.

Until recently, 3,000 refugees arrived every week and the total number of refugees was expected to double by the end of this year. However, the informal border crossings in the Kurdish region were closed one month ago.

“It is vital that the border is re-opened, so that people displaced by the civil war in Syria can seek safety elsewhere”, says Brekke.

“The Kurdish community and authorities have been among the most welcoming in the region, offering Syrian refugees residency and considerable support, but they do not have the capacity to handle the crisis alone”, she adds.