The Director General of the Kurdish Regional Government's Bureau of Migration and Displacement (BMD), Mr. Shakir Yasseen Yasseen, is appealing to the international community for assistance in managing the needs of Syrian refugees in Iraq.
"The international community, particularly our closest partner IOM, UNHCR, and other organizations, have tremendously helped us during this initial, emergency phase," stated Mr. Shakir. "With their assistance and expertise we have provided thousands of Syrian refugees with basic necessities,including shelter, food, and water. Our prognosis however, is that they will not be going back home anytime soon."
According to the latest statistics provided by the BMD, a total of over 5,300 Syrian refugees currently reside in Northern Iraq. As of 31 May 2012, 4,413 of such refugees have been registered by UNHCR, with 425 additional persons awaiting registration.
"As the fighting in Syria continues, we will need the international community's assistance and expertise. We need to address the ongoing needs of the refugees in many sectors, including nutrition, health, education, and most importantly, security. In the past, we have had attacks on refugee camps in this region. As you know, Domiz camp is quite close to the Syrian border, and if the situation in Syria becomes worse, we may be forced to move the camp further into Kurdistan for security reasons," Mr. Shakir stated. He continued, "Also, because there are a few million Kurds living in Syria, we cannot predict the number of refugees that will come into the region if the situation worsens."
Domiz refugee camp was officially opened on 4 April 2012, near the city of Dahuk in the northern Iraqi region of Kurdistan. According to the BMD, on 1 June 2012, 3,509 individuals were residing in the camp. Refugees who do not reside in Domiz camp have found shelter with relatives and in local mosquesin the governorates of Sulaymaniyah and Erbil.
To hear the personal stories of refugees residing in Domiz camp, please click here
In an IOM Iraq-conducted assessment of 180 families residing in Domiz Camp, and in interviews conducted by IOM staff at Domiz Camp last week, over 99 percent of refugees fled from the Syrian governorates of Hasaka, Halab, Damascus, and Reef Dimashq, and identified themselves as Kurdish Sunni Muslims.
WHY THEY LEFT
Refugees cited the dramatically escalating security situation and the rapidly deteriorating economic condition as their primary reasons for leaving Syria. Additionally, some of the male refugees stated that they fled Syria to avoid involvement in the conflict and to resist being drafted into the army or police force. The vast majority of refugees are uncertain about their futures and generally would like to return back home. However, they do not think it will happen in the near future.
Many refugees stated that they crossed the Syria-Iraq border illegally, traveling by foot and by car with the guidance of hired smugglers. Several refugees stated that the fee for a family to be smuggled across the border is 300 USD. As Kurds, they preferred to seek shelter in the Northern region of Iraq controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government, but there is evidence that some have sought shelter in other countries in the region. "We have a mother with three of her kids here in Domiz, while her husband and her two other kids are in a refugee camp in Lebanon. They were split up by their smugglers, and unfortunately, have not yet been reunited. The husband is still trying to figure out how to get here," stated Mr. Niyaz Noori Bamary, Government Emergency Cell (GEC) Liaison Officer for Dahuk.
Mr. Bamary, who coordinates all camp activities, stated, "IOM's role in establishing the camp has been crucial. They respond rapidly to all of the GEC's requests – from emergency distributions to needs assessments – but there is so much more to do," he continued. The camp currently lacks any medical facilities, and when it comes to water, Mr. Bamary states that they will need at least three more water tanks and a pipe network, in addition to the tank already built by IOM, in order to meet the needs of the growing population. He additionally stated that the camp lacks a proper sewage system. Mr. Bamary also mentioned that with winter approaching, cement flooring in the camp will be necessary to safeguard the camp from mud. "After the first rain, this place will be unlivable if we don't do something to prepare it for the winter elements!" Mr. Bamarycommented.
Bamary also stated that the camp can easily be expanded to accommodate up to 10,000 inhabitants. "Domiz camp is already becoming a small city, and with more refugees coming on a daily basis, needs are growing. If IOM could provide livelihood assistance to camp residents it would really help. Providing refugees with the opportunity to set up small businesses, such as barber shops and grocery stores, would not only fill a gap in services needed within the camp, but it would also help individuals improve their individual economic situations."
To date, IOM, in coordination with UNHCR, has distributed non-food items to a total of 1,773 individuals residing in Domiz refugee camp. Providing cooking stoves, gas cylinders, water filters, rechargeable lights, and bedding, amongst other items, IOM has dispensed essential relief items during six different emergency distributions. With support from the Slovakian Government, IOM has additionally installed a 21,000 liter water storage tank to provide clean drinking water for the camp. IOM staff also continually monitor and conduct assessments of the Syrian refugees' long-term needs. According to the GEC, there are 625 children under the age of 14 residing in the camp. UNHCR, IOM and UNICEF are currently coordinating efforts to establish a school in the camp. In addition to installing necessary equipment, the agencies are working to gather Syrian textbooks so students can finish the year with the same curriculum with which they started.
A VISIT FROM THE SLOVAKIAN AMBASSADOR
On 31 May 2012, Slovakian Ambassador to Iraq, Mr. Miloslav Nad, paid a visit to Domiz camp. Accompanied by an IOM team, Mr. Nad's visit was the first of its kind from a member of the Diplomatic Corps in Iraq. He stated, "I am very impressed by the cooperation between IOM and Slovak Aid in their efforts to install the water tank for the refugees. After visiting IOM's emergency warehouse today, I have also been assured that IOM has the ability to effectively and efficiently serve the needs of the most vulnerable." The Ambassador also added, "international organizations have done a good job here so far, but much more has to be done to improve the living conditions of the refugees. I will appeal to my colleagues in Baghdad, and to the international community in general, to give attention to the vast needs of Syrian refugees in Iraq."
In the context of the revision of the Regional Response Plan, IOM Iraq requested USD two million for continuation of its activities in Domiz camp and the surrounding area from June - December 2012.