Syrian Refugees Enter Kurdistan, Avoid Iraqi Central Government

Article Summary
The number of Syrian refugees fleeing to Iraqi Kurdistan has grown to over 4,000, according to an international report. Bassem Francis reports that the refugees prefer to stay in Kurdistan out of fear that the central Iraqi authorities would deliver them back to Damascus.

According to an international report, the number of Syrian refugees in Kurdistan has grown to 4,000. The report described the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq as a “safe haven” for the Syrian refugees.

The statement, issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that “the number of Syrian refugees in Kurdistan has reached 4,038 people, while 243 Syrians are still waiting to register.” The statement specified that among the registered people were “227 families comprising 1711 individuals, in addition to 2327 unmarried persons.”

Since the outbreak of the unrest in Syria in March last year, Syrian Kurds began to migrate toward the Kurdistan Region. 

Reports indicate that the heavy migration of Syrian refugees to Kurdistan can be attributed to the fact that the Iraqi authorities refused to receive them on their territory. The refugees fear that the Iraqi authorities will hand them over to Damascus once they enter Iraq, and say that they are crossing into the areas of Fahila and al-Walid, which are under the control of the Peshmerga forces affiliated with the province of Nineveh.

In a meeting with the assistant administrator for external relations of the International Organization Affairs for the Kurdish Government (UNHCR), regional coordinator Philip Ward said, “The Kurdistan region has become a safe haven for Syrian Kurds in light of the deteriorating political situation in their own country. The UNHCR is providing food according to a card system which will be applied as of September. Thanks to this system, refugees will be able to buy food from the market and business centers.”

The UNHCR, which expects a continuous rise in the number of Syrian refugees, has requested more than $80 million in March to provide aid to 100,000 refugees throughout the next six months. The organization has also prepared a plan to accommodate more than 200,000 Syrian refugees. The number of the refugees is projected to swell to around 100,000 by the end of the year.

“If the Syrian refugees remain in Kurdistan for over six months, they may be included in the ratio cards system which is currently being implemented in Iraq and Kurdistan. The system is based on an agreement with the Ministry of Commerce of the Kurdish government,” said Ward.

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