On January 26, UN, humanitarian and development agencies in Iraq have appealed for $298 million in ongoing assistance for nearly 250,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq. The appeal was made at the launch of the Iraq chapter of the Syria Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) in Erbil, attended by H.E. Dr. Ali Sindi, Minister of Planning of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Also in attendance were Minister Falah Mustafa, head of the Department of Foreign Relations, KRG, as well as key government and humanitarian agencies, and donors assisting refugees in Iraq. The response plan for Iraq is committed to continue providing protection and assistance to Syrian refugees, to meet their basic needs. It also recognizes the need to increase the resilience of refugees as well as host communities and calls for a greater investment in education and increased opportunities for vocational training and livelihoods.
As the economic crisis in the KR-I worsens, livelihoods initiatives and post primary vocational training are becoming increasingly important for refugees. UNHCR and its partner Harikar handed over a QIP in support of the vocational training centre Dohuk, the only public training centre of its kind in Dohuk Governorate.
The first Secondary School in Qushtapa camp has opened and 95 children have already registered.
On 17 January, the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing point was re-opened for all civilian and commercial crossings between Turkey and KR-I.
A total of 3,972 Syrians arrived to KR-I through Pheshkabour border, which represents half of the new arrivals recorded last year in January, and the lowest number of monthly arrivals recorded in a year.
A total of 802 individuals returned to Syria (741 registered asylum-seekers and 61 unregistered Syrians): the lowest number of recorded returns in a year. The vast majority of refugees who returned to Syria were living in urban areas in KR-I and mentioned the lack of employment and job opportunities in addition to assistance as the main reasons driving their decision to go back to Syria.
UPDATE ON ACHIEVEMENTS
Budgetary issues between Erbil and Baghdad remained unsolved in January 2016 despite several attempts and negotiations by both parties. The latest development on this issue was the visit of the KRG PM to Baghdad to discuss the issue with the Iraqi PM. The Iraqi Government and the KRG are under severe financial challenges due to the drop in oil prices.
The financial difficulties of the KRG as well as political disputes among political parties continue to foster unrest and demonstrations in Sulaymaniyah Governorate and Garmiyan administration. The main challenge for the KRG remains the delay in salary payments to public sector employees, including teachers who have not been paid for the last 4 months and did not receive well Government’s decisions to pay only 50% of the salaries.
The conflict between the Iraqi Security Forces and armed opposition groups continues in parts of Anbar province as well as other parts of Central Iraq. The Kurdish Peshmerga forces remain engaged in fighting with armed militants in Makhmour and Sinjar dsitricts.
The on-going economic crisis deeply affects the humanitarian situation, with approximately 245,000 Syrian refugees and more than 1 million IDPs competing for jobs and resources in KR-I, which has put enormous pressure on the public services and the local population hosting capacity.