Mosul Weekly Protection Update (11 - 17 March 2017)
As the offensive to retake west Mosul enters the fourth week, MOMD reports that over 153,000 people have been displaced since 19 February 2017. In addition to displacement out of west Mosul, IDPs continue to flee east Mosul, Shirqat and Hawiga. Increasing reports of family separation, limited access to safety for out of camp displacement, increased incidents of collective punishment in Tikrit and movement restrictions were identified as the main protection concerns this week.
Up to 12,600 internally displaced persons (IDPs) a day have reportedly arrived at Hammam Al-Alil screening site during the reporting period. Camps in the south and east of Mosul have reached full capacity and authorities have been transporting families to Gogachly in east Mosul and Qayyarah to reside with relatives or with host communities. Although a late start, 431 IDPs have been transported on 16 and 17 March camps in the north-east. Nargizlia 1 and 2 camps have capacity to accommodate about 18,000 people though many IDPs have already sought shelter in unfinished buildings in east Mosul. IDPs also continue to flee various quarters of east Mosul such as Sakniyah, Qasidiyah and Goba villages in moderate numbers towards camps in the east and north. UNHCR and other protection actors continue to identify and assist vulnerable IDPs in the vicinity of the screening site and the reception center. UNHCR is also attempting to identify the location of out of camp IDPs to extend protection assistance where it is needed. In camps, UNHCR is identifying vulnerable cases for prioritization of assistance and referrals, and provides psychological first aid for IDPs in need.
Amidst the large numbers of families undergoing security screening at Hammam Al-Alil screening site, protection actors have identified family separation as a serious risk, affecting both adults and children. UNHCR and other protection actors are on the scene daily to identify and provide assistance to such individuals and families. UNHCR also continues to engage with local authorities in the east, south and north of Mosul to advocate for family reunification, while ensuring that the causes of family separation are eliminated or, if not possible, kept at a minimum.
In Kirkuk, UNHCR protection teams also work towards identifying separated children including some in Laylan camp whose parents are in Daquq and Nazrawa camps. Follow-up with MOMD is ongoing to ensure that the children are reunited with their families.
Access to safety
IDPs fleeing west Mosul have also reported witnessing several civilians shot by snipers while fleeing extremist elements. UNHCR protection teams in Kirkuk and in Tikrit have noted a decrease in the number of families fleeing Hawiga and Shirqat. This week 880 individuals left east Shirqat toward west Shirqat compared with 1,224 last week. In Hawiga, armed extremists are seemingly tightening restrictions and surveillance imposed on civilians, resulting in increased risks for those who try to flee the district. Some IDPs report that armed extremists burned nine people alive, including four children, as they attempted to leave Hawiga for Al-Alam district, in Salah al-Din. The alleged immolation was witnessed by dozens of IDPs some of whom were later reportedly arrested by armed extremists between Al-Riyath sub-district and Hamreen Mountain, as they were trying to flee.
Authorities in Salah al-Din have relocated 235 IDP families from Al-Shahama camp to a newly partitioned part, called Al-Karama camp. Another 182 families remain confined in Al-Shahama camp, in internment-like conditions. In Al-Karama camp families enjoy freedom of movement and have received back their previously confiscated IDs and mobile phones. Camp management reported that families were relocated based on their desire to be kept separate from those alleged to be affiliated with armed extremists. UNHCR has been intervening with the authorities against this unlawful segregation of civilians in Al-Shahama camp since all IDPs in that camp have already undergone security screening and none of them has reportedly any direct affiliation with armed extremist groups. UNHCR and partners continue to provide protection and core relief assistance in both camps while also closely monitoring the situation and advocating for better conditions for the IDPs in Al-Shahama camp.
In areas of displacement under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), in Tikrit and Kirkuk, authorities justify movement restrictions as a security measure. Such restrictions to the IDPs’ freedom of movement impedes their access to healthcare services and livelihood opportunities that are not available in IDP camps. Following months of engagement with authorities, UNHCR facilitated the transfer of a group of four IDPs, including two children from Al-Shahama camp to Tikrit hospital. Advocacy initiatives have resulted in Kirkuk authorities allowing some IDPs from Daquq, Nazrawa and Laylan camps to obtain day-passes to attend to medical, documentation and livelihood needs on condition that they have a sponsor from outside the camp. Protection monitoring data shows that 85% of the IDP households assessed have no source of income and a broader agreement on freedom of movement is therefore needed for IDPs in order to be able to sustain themselves economically. Advocacy for further freedom of movement is also needed for IDPs in Kirkuk to be allowed to visit family members who are sometimes detained at security checkpoints for long periods.
Protection assessment reveal that 44% of IDPs lack essential civil documentation (ID). Civil documentation facilitates access to public welfare, education, health services and social benefits. In some instances, IDPs report that authorities and militia groups have confiscated their IDs. This week, militias reportedly confiscated more than 100 IDs from male IDPs fleeing Badush area, north of Mosul, at Al Qwar checkpoint. Protection partners continue to engage with the authorities to facilitate the return of the IDs to the people concerned. After months of intense advocacy by UNHCR teams for IDPs’ unimpeded access to critical civil documentation, mobile units from the Civil Affairs Directorate, the Retirement Directorate and the Department of Health are scheduled to visit IDP camps and locations in Tikrit, and Kirkuk governorates to issue IDs, pension cards and birth registration. In Erbil the mobile units have been instrumental in facilitating issuance of civil documentation.
Voluntary, forced and refused returns
Returns to east Mosul are ongoing to Rashidiya, Al-Tamin, Shimal and Sadaam quarters. Families report the improved security conditions in retaken areas, the desire to resume jobs and to reunite with their families. In Kirkuk, despite commitments to the contrary the authorities have resumed coercive measures to compel returns to Anbar, Diyala and Salah al-Din. IDPs residing in Qadissiya IDP settlement report that a primary school principle conditioned the return of 50 IDP students to school to their being cleared by Asayish first. When their parents approached Asayish, they were asked to leave Kirkuk. This week, 25 families have left Kirkuk after repeated eviction notices from the authorities. Returns to disputed areas like Zummar, Wana and Rabe’a continue to be restricted depending on ethnic origin. Denial of returns to several areas result in extreme and continued hardship for many IDP groups, one of which belongs to Badush (500 families) who have left behind their livestock, especially as the area is now reportedly retaken. Demarches to the Government are being undertaken in this regard. UNHCR urges authorities in all governorates to ensure that returns are voluntary, safe, dignified, and non-discriminatory, highlighting that those wanting and able to return home should be allowed to do so.