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UNHCR’s protection chief visits Iraq, calls for more support to protect displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees [EN/AR]

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Erbil, 16 April 2015 - The UN Refugee Agency’s top protection official visited Iraq this week, concerned by the prevailing humanitarian situation which has seen massive displacement of people within the country and a continuing exodus of Syrian refugees who are fleeing across the border into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Mr. Volker Türk, expressed appreciation to the authorities and the people of Iraq for their generosity in accommodating displaced people, despite the many challenges the country is currently facing.

“I express the deep gratitude of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to the Iraqi Government, the Kurdistan Regional Government and the people of Iraq who have opened their borders, communities and homes to accommodate some 2.7 million displaced Iraqi citizens and almost 250,000 Syrian refugees who are affected by conflict and in need of international protection,” Mr. Türk said.

Following the dramatic events in Sinjar and Mosul last year, displacement continues across central Iraq; and with the Syrian conflict entering its fifth year with no sign of abating, refugees continue to cross the border into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). KRI currently hosts nearly half of the displaced Iraqis within the country, in addition to 97% of all Syrian refugees in Iraq.

“Since the onset of both crises, UNHCR has been working with those displaced, with the authorities, with UN sister agencies, with NGO partners and with civil society to ensure that those escaping violence and human rights abuses can find safety and protection. It is therefore crucial, that this spirit of humanity and generosity continues and that the borders and checkpoints remain open to provide safe refuge for those who desperately need it,” said Mr. Türk.

Highlighting the challenges in adequately protecting and assisting those uprooted, Mr. Türk urged greater national ownership and more international solidarity to respond to the critical needs of those displaced.

“It is imperative that local communities and humanitarian efforts are properly supported. Host communities and institutions are facing enormous pressures regarding basic services such as health, education, shelter, electricity and water supplies; notwithstanding security considerations, and the severe humanitarian funding shortfalls are now impacting the scale and reach of assistance being offered,” he said.

During his week-long mission Mr. Türk visited IDPs and Syrian refugee families in camps and in urban locations, who have fled conflict, persecution and violence, some having been displaced multiple times. Mr. Türk also met with the central government authorities in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil to discuss ways to provide more effective support to refugees and the internally displaced, as well as the host communities.

For more information, please contact:
Shabia Mantoo, UNHCR External Relations: + 964 770 494 6318
Yousif Mahmood, UNHCR Public Information: + 964 770 670 0815