UNHCR Inter-Agency Operational Update – Iraq, 3 November 2019

Report
from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 03 Nov 2019

Since the start of military action in North East Syria (NES) an estimated 13,634 individuals have crossed into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I) seeking refuge.

All refugees have entered KR-I through five different informal crossing points. As of 25 October, all new arrivals are redirected to Sehela transit site.

Families arriving to Sehela are transported to camps based on shelter availability and instructions provided by local authorities, Bardarash camp being prioritized.

Operational context

Following recent military operations in North East Syria (NES), thousands of families have escaped their villages to seek safety in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I). As of 3 November 2019, an estimated 13,634 Syrian refugees have crossed into Iraq. Most new arrivals are originally from Qamishli and Ras al Ain, followed by al-Malika, al-Hasakeh, and Afrin.

There are currently five informal crossing points through which Syrian refugees are entering Iraq, the most used ones being Sehela and Al-Walid.
KR-I authorities have confirmed that all five crossing points remain open for families seeking refuge, however, as of 25 October, all individuals entering the KR-I through any of these points are redirected by Assayesh to Sehela transit site, where they go through an initial security screening. After receiving clearance from Assayesh, new arrivals are transported to refugee camps based on shelter availability and instructions provided by local authorities.

While at the peak of the influx over 1,500 individuals were arriving daily to KR-I, this figure has significantly decreased during the past days, with a new steady average of around 300 arrivals per day. New arrivals are providing different information, some stressing that security controls at the border are tighter, while others state that the situation has become calmer and people are waiting before taking next steps. So far, most families entering the KR-I reported having paid smugglers between USD 350 and USD 1,000 per family to help them reach the border, the amount varies per case.

Since the beginning of the emergency, two different refugee camps have been designated to host the new arrivals, namely Bardarash camp, which was re-opened, and Gawilan refugee camp, which was already operating. At the time of writing this report, the preferred destination by authorities for new arrivals is Bardarash refugee camp. As of 3 November 2019, out of the total 13,634 Syrian refugees who have entered the KR-I, 11,237 individuals are hosted in Bardarash refugee camp, and 1,483 in Gawilan refugee camp. A significant number of refugees have indicated that they have relatives across KR-I with whom they would like to reunite. In order to be able to leave camps, refugees need to obtain permission from Assayesh. To do so, family members outside the camp who want to sponsor their relatives need to approach Assayesh in their KR-I governorate with their residency card to get clearance. Assayesh in each KR-I governorate clears, compiles, and shares the list of cleared sponsors with Assayesh in Akre, who then shares with Assayesh in camps for final clearance before being allowed to depart. As of 3 November, an estimated 759 new arrivals have left camps to other locations.

As the situation remains volatile, continued efforts are required by all humanitarian actors, including local authorities, UN agencies, and NGOs, to ensure all new arrivals have access to adequate protection and assistance to meet their needs. At the current rate of arrivals, it is expected that the situation will steadily expand beyond Duhok governorate and the response and coordination efforts will be integrated under the existing Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) framework.