Three out of the four border crossings from Syria remain closed (Rabiaa, Al Qaim and Al Waleed) for refugees’ entry. The Syrian KR-I border at Peshkhabour remained open throughout the reporting period, except for 5th and 20th to 23rd March, as it was an official holiday in the KR-I, and people continue to cross at the Bajid Kandala crossing point in Dohuk governorate. Monitoring of cross border movement (counselling, monitoring and inactivation of cases for assistance in UNHCR’s database) has continued.
Overall the situation remained calm and incident free during the reporting period.
The categories of persons allowed entry through the Peshkabour border remained limited to persons requesting access to the territory in order to access health care and family visits. In addition persons originating from known conflict areas are admitted, but reports suggest some may face delays on the Syrian side of the border. Consequently, the 3rd and 27th of March saw 916 and 791 persons cross into KRI in a single day. They were all persons who had been waiting on the Syrian side for some time to be allowed to cross.
Protection monitoring and co-ordination of protection activities in all camps in KR-I continued. Concerns identified include lack of access to secondary education, continued difficulties faced by some refugees known to have returned temporarily to Syria to be re-admitted and re-acquire their (valid) residency permits, issues related to inequitable access to civil status documentation and residency permits, and individual cases of SGBV.
Registration in ProGres data base in the newly-established camps is now almost fully rolled-out. At the time of writing, 91.2% of refugees are registered and the number of refugees pending registration has been further reduced. In addition, Residency Permits are now being issued in almost all camps in the KR -I by the relevant authorities. Discussions on the resumption of issuance of Residency Permits for those in the non-camp areas of Erbil are ongoing.
Advocacy on freedom of movement and the question of re-admission continued to be undertaken. The reporting period saw a slight increase in the number of Syrians, registered in KR-I, at risk of deportation after having left the KR-I and ventured towards the Centre or South of Iraq, where they faced arrest for illegal entry. Individual advocacy by UNHCR at the KRG-level has generally led to the return of the Syrians concerned to the KR-I, as an alternative to deportation from Iraq by the central authorities.
The merged (or ‘collapsed’) refugees status determination and resettlement procedures for the Syrian caseload continued to be implemented (on a ‘pilot’ basis) during the reporting period. Progress was made to enhance case identification and referral mechanisms for the purposes of resettlement consideration.
A protection mainstreaming training was held for the Inter-Sector Co-ordination Group in Erbil. The session demonstrated a strong need for and interest in further trainings of this nature to be held. This will be taken forward by the Protection Sector Working Group.