Syrian refugees in Iraq move to a new camp in Kurdistan

News Stories, 9 July 2014

© UNHCR photo
Nariman and her family unpack their total belongings at the new camp that has been opened in Kurdistan to improve the living conditions for Syrian refugees.

SULYMANIAH, Iraq, 9 July (UNHCR) Amid the growing displacement of Iraqis fleeing war in their homeland, UNHCR is continuing to help thousands of Syrian refugees who had fled to Iraq to escape their own conflict. The UN refugee agency has opened a new long-term refugee camp in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region for some of the 225,000 Syrians who registered as refugees in Iraq over the past two years.

The 3,000 residents of the Arbat transit camp in Sulymaniah are moving to a new camp with much better facilities just a 10-minute bus ride away in northeastern Iraq. Although most refugees arriving in Iraq have found their own accommodation, the population of the new camp could eventually reach 10,000.

"The camp was designed at a time when there was a continuous influx of refugees. We believe we will see more refugees come here as they relocate from urban areas, or other governorates, or perhaps run out of resources to rent houses," says Kahin Ismail, UNHCR Head of Office in Sulymaniah.

"We expect the refugees will be here for the foreseeable future given that there is no sign of a political solution in sight for the Syria conflict."

It didn't take long for 44-year old Nariman and her family to pack. Under a searing sun in 40 degree temperatures, Nariman and her three sons worked alongside movers from a local NGO to quickly load their small treasure trove of mattresses, rugs and pots and pans into one small truck.

Nariman and her family fled the violence in Syria 10 months ago with just the clothes on their backs. They had been living in the transit camp ever since. UNHCR spent nine months building the new camp to provide Nariman and her neighbors with a higher standard of living.

Nariman is pleased to be moving because her husband and oldest son, who have serious health problems, will now have access to better care. "My 16-year old son has a blood disorder and my husband has almost gone deaf. There is a larger health clinic at the new camp and I hope they will now get their medicine on a regular basis."

At the new Arbat camp rows of white tarpaulin shelters spread across a former farmer's field, each erected on a concrete base to prevent flooding. Every family has its own shower, kitchen and latrine, features important to Nariman and her growing boys. "Life as a refugee has been tough because I have teenage sons and we needed more space."

Other upgrades at the new camp include pre-fab schoolrooms insulated to withstand Iraq's extreme temperatures, a youth center and a supermarket.

Nariman isn't thinking about returning to Syria anytime soon. Focused on keeping her family together, she has negotiated with UNHCR camp officials to ensure her tent is beside her newly married daughter and son-in law. "We are far from home and it is important for me to stay close to my relatives so we can support each other as much as possible."

By Catherine Robinson in Sulymaniah

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Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and more than 2 million others have fled to nearby countries. While many people were displaced before 2003, increasing numbers of Iraqis are now fleeing escalating sectarian, ethnic and general violence. Since January 2006, UNHCR estimates that more than 800,000 Iraqis have been uprooted and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. UNHCR anticipates there will be approximately 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of 2007. The refugee agency and its partners have provided emergency assistance, shelter and legal aid to displaced Iraqis where security has allowed.

In January 2007, UNHCR launched an initial appeal for US$60 million to fund its Iraq programme. Despite security issues for humanitarian workers inside the country, UNHCR and partners hope to continue helping up to 250,000 of the most vulnerable internally displaced Iraqis and their host communities

Posted on 12 June 2007

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to Iraq in July 2009 to offer support to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who remain displaced within their own country.

During her day-long visit to Baghdad, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visited a makeshift settlement for internally displaced people in north-west Baghdad where she met families displaced from the district of Abu Ghraib, located to the west of Baghdad, and from the western suburbs of the capital.

Despite the difficulties in Iraq, Jolie said this was a moment of opportunity for Iraqis to rebuild their lives. "This is a moment where things seem to be improving on the ground, but Iraqis need a lot of support and help to rebuild their lives."

UNHCR estimates that 1.6 million Iraqis were internally displaced by a wave of sectarian warfare that erupted in February 2006 after the bombing of a mosque in the ancient city of Samarra. Almost 300,000 people have returned to their homes amid a general improvement in the security situation since mid-2008.

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

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