UNHCR distributes aid to thousands of Iraqis fleeing attacks in Ninewa

News Stories, 5 August 2014

© UNHCR/ E. Colt
UNHCR distribution near Duhok this afternoon in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region. Tens of thousands have fled to the region since the weekend.

ERBIL, Iraq, August 5 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has started distributing emergency aid to thousands of people displaced by the latest outbreak of violence in northern Iraq's Ninewa governorate.

Officials in the Iraq's Kurdistan region say some 30,000 people (6,600 families) have fled the fighting that erupted at the weekend between ethnic Kurdish forces and armed opposition groups, who reportedly captured three communities.

The Iraqi government says up to 200,000 may have fled from SInjar and some sought shelter in a mountainous region. UNHCR staff also report that some 3,000 Iraqis fled into Syria from western Ninewa province over the weekend. UNHCR is trying to help them gain permission to cross back into Iraq's Kurdistan region.

Many of the internally displaced Iraqis are staying with friends or relatives in Iraqi Kurdistan's Dohuk governorate, but some 14,000 have moved into the previously empty Bajet-Kandela transit camp near the border with Syria. The facility was built a year ago as a temporary shelter for Syrian refugees and is once more full.

UNHCR has since Sunday provided families with emergency items such as mattresses, quilts, soap and other aid, and plans to send more tents to the host areas in coming days.

On Monday, the refugee agency sent 1,000 emergency kits to meet urgent needs in Shariya, a town 50 kilometres east of the Syrian border with the largest concentration of newly displaced Iraqis. A further 2,000 family tents and 6,000 emergency kits will be sent this week to help these 15,000 people. Local authorities have allocated land for a camp to cope with the inflow.

UNHCR and its partners are monitoring the three main crossing points into Iraqi Kurdistan's Dohuk and Erbil governorates from Ninewa.

Staff from the refugee agency have also noticed a large number of people from ethnic minority groups among the latest exodus, including Yazidis, Shabak, Armenians and Shia Turkmen as well as Christians and some Shia Arabs. Some have been displaced multiple times.

A group of 400 Iraqi Turkmen were on Monday midway between the militant-held northern city of Mosul and Erbil, after having fled new fighting in Mosul in recent days. Some of them told UNHCR protection officers that they had fled because of the threat of kidnapping in addition to targeted violence.

Ahmed*, an ethnic Turkmen and father of eight, told UNHCR at the Khazair checkpoint between Mosul and Erbil that he and others from his community had first fled their farming community near Mosul two months ago after armed opposition groups took control of the city. They moved again on Sunday, when they heard that the groups were heading their way. "We couldn't stay any longer," Ahmed said.

He used to have a good business selling fruit and vegetables from the back of his pickup truck. He said this second move had been the most difficult, because he has had no news of his missing 21-year-old son, who had stayed behind in Mosul and was last seen by neighbours blindfolded and with arms tied behind his back outside his home.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres has said minorities are particularly at risk in Iraq. "Everybody needs to be protected," he stressed, during a visit last month to Erbil. "Everybody seeking access should be given refuge without discrimination. Everybody deserves to be safe."

Iraq's Kurdistan region is already home to more than 300,000 internally displaced Iraqis and 220,000 Syrian refugees.

* Name changed for protection reasons

By Ned Colt in Erbil, Iraq

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.

Iraq Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Iraq.

Donate to this crisis

CAR Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Central African Republic.

Donate to this crisis

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

During Sri Lanka's 20-year civil war more than 1 million people were uprooted from their homes or forced to flee, often repeatedly. Many found shelter in UNHCR-supported Open Relief Centers, in government welfare centers or with relatives and friends.

In February 2002, the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed a cease-fire accord and began a series of talks aimed at negotiating a lasting peace. By late 2003, more than 300,000 internally displaced persons had returned to their often destroyed towns and villages.

In the midst of these returns, UNHCR provided physical and legal protection to war affected civilians – along with financing a range of special projects to provide new temporary shelter, health and sanitation facilities, various community services, and quick and cheap income generation projects.

Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

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

Iraq: Angelina Jolie Visits Displaced IraqisPlay video

Iraq: Angelina Jolie Visits Displaced Iraqis

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie recently visited internally displaced Iraqis living in an informal settlement and a formal camp at Khanke, near Dohuk. There, she heard dramatic stories of escape from the more than 20,000 Yazidis who fled Sinjar and surrounding areas last August.
Iraq: The Plight of the YazidisPlay video

Iraq: The Plight of the Yazidis

Tens of thousands of people, including ethnic Yazidis originating from the Sinjar area, have been forced to find shelter in schools and unfinished structures across northern Iraq since fleeing their homes. The UN refugee agency has been trying to help, opening camps to provide better shelter.
Iraq: Preparing for Winter in DohukPlay video

Iraq: Preparing for Winter in Dohuk

Efforts are under way in Syria, Iraq and neighbouring countries to prepare refugees and the internally displaced for winter. But UNHCR remains deeply concerned that a $58.45 million funding shortfall could leave as many as a million people out in the cold.