Mosul Weekly Protection Update (3 - 9 June 2017)
Highlights: Displacement out of west Mosul, Ba’aj and Tel Afar increased and large numbers of civilian casualties, including fatalities, continue to be reported especially in Zanjili, in west Mosul. A positive change was noted in Al Shahama camp, in Salah al-Din Governorate, where following persistent humanitarian interventions, 120 families were permitted to leave the camp which had hitherto served as a confinement site.
Protection monitoring at mustering and screening sites
Displacement out of the active conflict areas significantly increased this week with the transit of 14,500 persons at Hammam Al Alil (HAA) screening site in one day. The new arrivals were from Ba’aj district which was recently retaken, and from Abu Maria village in Tel Afar and Zanjili quarter of west Mosul.
Arriving families report horrific conditions in Zanjili, with heavy civilian casualties due to aerial bombing, mortars and sniper fire. Some families have reported that they endured over four months without a proper meal. A few families using the east Mosul route reported having suffered hearing loss due to proximity to incessant explosions and artillery fire. While Immediate Rapid Response Mechanism (IRRM) is available at the main screening site for this location, the need for hot meals has been highlighted. The IRRM comprises of live saving water, food rations (canned protein, dates and biscuits). Arrivals report that thousands of families remain trapped in Zanjili and in the Old City unable to escape without facing imminent risks from airstrikes and snipers.
Protection partners monitoring mustering points near Yarmouk have raised serious concerns over the positioning of large artillery close to mustering points, heightening risks to civilians. Advocacy is being undertaken with authorities to ensure that civilians are afforded the utmost protection from both retaliatory and sniper fire. Partners are undertaking information dissemination at Scorpion Junction and Hammam Alil on possible onward destinations, services available at Hammam Al-Alil, locations and services available in displacement camps, and transport options provided by the Ministry of Transport for those wishing to stay with host communities.
In mid-May protection teams received reports that thousands of families from Ba’aj had been forcibly taken by armed extremists from Qaiwaran to Ba’aj and thereafter towards Syria to be used as human shields. Some of these families reportedly managed to escape as the Iraqi Security Forces closed in on the extremists this week, and arrived at the UNHCR transit site and Salamiyah camp, some 25 kilometres south of Mosul. The families transited through Tal Jarabeea, which is at the border of Tel Afar and Mosul districts where security screening is conducted by the popular mobilization forces (PMF), a government affiliated military group. The PMF have reportedly collected the identity documents (IDs) of male IDPs: most of the IDs have not yet been returned causing anxiety among those affected. UNHCR protection teams have intervened with the authorities and are closely monitoring the return of IDs, while advocating with authorities for PMF not to be involved in the screening process. The Ninewa Liberation Operation Plan stipulates that screening should occur in designated locations and be conducted by forces under the Ministry of Interior.
Upon arrival at the camps families are provided shelter, food and health services, and protection assistance including psychological first aid and case management.
Access to Safety
Hammam Al Alil, south of Mosul, remains the main transit point for IDPs fleeing west Mosul and surrounding areas, with very few families directly heading east. Reportedly fears of difficult security measures as well as increased vigilance by snipers affiliated with extremist groups make this a risky route to take.
In Ninewa Governorate, following months of advocacy with authorities including by UNHCR Representative, IDPs fleeing Tel Afar through Zummar, Shandukhan and Sahlij are spending considerably less time in these locations. Since mid-April IDPs using this route would often spend weeks and days stranded, with little access to humanitarian assistance. New arrivals now report spending only a day or two before military trucks arrive to transport them to Hammam Al Alil. However, twenty-five families also remain stranded in Fadhiliya with no access to humanitarian assistance and have to walk almost 2 km for drinking water. In addition, in Kirkuk Governorate, families from Hawiga who had been stuck at Maktab Khalid buffer zone were finally allowed to proceed into Kirkuk following persistent advocacy with the Governor and Asayish. Unfortunately three other families, mostly women and children remain stranded in Albu Mohammad village close to Daquq district in Kirkuk, despite a month of advocacy and the receipt of verbal approval from the Governor for those families to cross into Daquq.
Returns to east and west Mosul continued this week. UNHCR protection teams conducted 82 family interviews with returnees to monitor motivation for and conditions of return. The majority of the returns were to Al-Aamel, Intisar, Qusyat, Rashidiya, Karama, Jazayir, Nabi Younis and other neighbourhoods of east Mosul. Those returning to west Mosul went to Al Mamoun, Mshrefa, Wadi Hajr, Shuhada and Tal Ruman. The push and pull factors remain consistent including the summer heat, the difficult camp conditions and the desire to return home. In Kirkuk, a few families voluntarily returned to Ninewa Governorate, of which Mosul is the capital. Many families have also expressed their desire to return after Ramadan and when the school term ends.
Authorities in Kirkuk have resumed confiscating identity documents in Whid Huzzairan, Huyra and Shwan sub-districts to compel returns to retaken areas or to push families residing in host community toward displacement camps. UNHCR is advocating for the return of these identity documents and for all parties involved to respect the principle of voluntary return.
In Salah al-Din Governorate, many families perceived as having links with extremist groups have been brought to Al Shahama camp by military actors. After months of advocacy efforts by UNHCR and protection partners, the Salah Al-Din Operations Command and Governor’s Office agreed to allow 120 families residing in Al-Shahama camp to depart, following reassessment of their security status. There are 40 remaining families in Al-Shahama camp, where basic services are inadequate. UNHCR continues to advocate for freedom of movement, due process and access to basic services for all families.
Protection partners have observed that a growing number of families are manifesting signs of stress and trauma requiring psychological and psychosocial support. Men, women and children have witnessed and experienced traumatic situations. While services are available in camp and out of camp locations the demand is increasing. Protection partners and the Department of Health are attempting to meet the needs despite a limited number of partners on the ground and insufficient funding. In addition, in Nargizlia camp for cases with serious mental health needs, referrals to facilities outside camps are limited due to movement restrictions.