Thousands of Syrian refugees arrive in Iraq, many with special needs

Telling the Human Story, 22 October 2012

© UNHCR/J.Seregni
Tents stretch into the distance at Domiz camp for Syrian refugees in northern Iraq's Dohuk governorate.

DOHUK, Iraq, September 30 (UNHCR) She's only four years old, but Syrian refugee Magi can't shake off the sounds and images of war that forced her family to flee the embattled northern city of Aleppo and seek shelter in northern Iraq.

"I can't sleep at night; I still have images of soldiers shooting from the roofs of the buildings," whispered the traumatized young girl in her family's tent at the Domiz refugee camp in Dohuk governorate. "There was rocket fire everywhere and we were really scared," added her mother, Rojin.

"There were power cuts all the time in our building and prices went up significantly," she continued. "It was impossible to buy bread and oil, shops were always closed and Magi was crying because she was hungry, so we decided to flee the country."

Magi and her mother are among some 34,400 Syrian refugees who have arrived in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq since the Syrian conflict erupted in March last year. And they continue to come, with an average of 500 people reaching Domiz every day.

Many of the children arrive suffering from trauma similar to Magi's and struggling to get the horrifying images out of their young minds. UNHCR met several children in need of professional support as well as participation in social activities to help them cope in their new, unfamiliar environment.

Such vulnerable cases are of particular concern to UNHCR and the Government of Kurdistan Region (KRG), which work together to provide support and counselling for children suffering from post-traumatic symptoms such as nightmares, anxiety attacks and painful memories.

In Domiz, UNHCR identifies cases of traumatized children and refers them to the camp's mental health unit, which is run by the KRG's department of health. Here, experts provide psychological counselling and support to the children and their families as well as follow up on their mental health situation.

Growing numbers of Syrians arriving with no economic resources and opting to stay in the camp and seek assistance are putting increased pressure on services in all sectors, including food, shelter, water and health care.

The new arrivals, including Magi's family, are living in transit areas while the infrastructure of the camp is being expanded to cope with the growing influx. It currently provides shelter to some 14,500 refugees. "It is difficult to live in a tent," said Rojin, adding: "We will never return."

The anxious mother said she hoped life in the camp would help her child "soon forget the trauma of war." Her husband is seeking work in Dohuk.

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq continues to welcome Syrian Kurdish refugees and facilitate their integration and freedom of movement by issuing residency permits and providing access to public services.

As of early October, some 34,400 Syrian refugees have been registered in Iraq's Kurdistan Region. Duhok governorate hosts the largest number with more than 27,000 people, followed by Erbil (5,852) and Suleimaniya (1,683).

By Jerome Seregni in Dohuk, Iraq

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Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As world concern grows over the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees, UNHCR staff are working around the clock to provide vital assistance in neighbouring countries. At the political level, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was due on Thursday (August 30) to address a closed UN Security Council session on Syria.

Large numbers have crossed into Lebanon to escape the violence in Syria. By the end of August, more than 53,000 Syrians across Lebanon had registered or received appointments to be registered. UNHCR's operations for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley resumed on August 28 after being briefly suspended due to insecurity.

Many of the refugees are staying with host families in some of the poorest areas of Lebanon or in public buildings, including schools. This is a concern as the school year starts soon. UNHCR is urgently looking for alternative shelter. The majority of the people looking for safety in Lebanon are from Homs, Aleppo and Daraa and more than half are aged under 18. As the conflict in Syria continues, the situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon remains precarious.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

By mid-September, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees had crossed the border into Turkey. UNHCR estimates that half of them are children, and many have seen their homes destroyed in the conflict before fleeing to the border and safety.

The Turkish authorities have responded by building well-organized refugee camps along southern Turkey's border with Syria. These have assisted 120,000 refugees since the crisis conflict erupted in Syria. There are currently 12 camps hosting 90,000 refugees, while four more are under construction. The government has spent approximately US$300 million to date, and it continues to manage the camps and provide food and medical services.

The UN refugee agency has provided the Turkish government with tents, blankets and kitchen sets for distribution to the refugees. UNHCR also provides advice and guidelines, while staff from the organization monitor voluntary repatriation of refugees.

Most of the refugees crossing into Turkey come from areas of northern Syria, including the city of Aleppo. Some initially stayed in schools or other public buildings, but they have since been moved into the camps, where families live in tents or container homes and all basic services are available.

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

The violence inside Syria continues to drive people from their homes, with some seeking shelter elsewhere in their country and others risking the crossing into neighbouring countries. The United Nations estimates that up to 4 million people are in need of help, including some 2 million believed to be internally displaced.

The UN refugee agency has 350 staff working inside Syria. Despite the insecurity, they continue to distribute vital assistance in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Al Hassakeh and Homs. Thanks to their work and dedication, more than 350,000 people have received non-food items such as blankets, kitchen sets and mattresses. These are essential items for people who often flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs. Cash assistance has been given to more than 10,600 vulnerable Syrian families.

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

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