Archive for July 2011
I was in the Qandil mountains in northern Iraq some days ago to meet with Iraqi internally displaced families. They fled their homes in villages at the Iraq-Iranian border because of constant shelling. Iranian troops have been in conflict with anti-government groups on the border for years, and this is having a direct impact on Iraqi civilians who live in the frontier area, on the Iraqi side. The shelling is usually increasing every year during the summer months, forcing civilians to leave everything behind them. I visited families in two settlements in Gojar, which is located only 15 kilometers away from the volatile border. UNHCR has already provided them with shelter through tents and other aid agencies have distributed food and other relief items. Local authorities are trucking water every day and send medical staff when needed. So true, these people are not at risk of starvation and are not in the middle of a major humanitarian crisis. But they live in constant uncertainty. I talked to women who told me that they fear their children could be hit one day by a rocket. “We just want stability and safety” told me one of the women. “We have enough of leaving our homes every year and of worrying for our children’s lives “.
News Stories, 27 July 2011
GOJAR, Iraq, July 27 (UNHCR) ¬- The UN refugee agency, partner organizations and the Iraqi government are helping more than 800 people recently displaced by cross-border shelling on the frontier with Iran.
At least 845 Iraqi civilians from 175 families have been staying in two settlements in the mountainous Gojar area of Iraqi Kurdistan’s Sulaymaniyah Governorate since fleeing from border areas in mid-July. Most are women and children.
UNHCR has distributed tents and plastic sheeting to the displaced, while other humanitarian groups have given food, mattresses, water filtering machines, stoves and kitchen sets. Local authorities report that an additional 100 families from seven villages in the Zharaw border district had fled their homes following shelling last week. UNHCR plans to take part in an aid distribution for these people on Wednesday.
Shelter is very important for the displaced, especially at a time when the weather is getting hotter, and people have been using branches and the shade of trees for extra cover. “The temperature is reaching 47 degrees Centigrade and it will go higher in August,” explained UNHCR field officer Kamaran Ali.
“Together with the local authorities, we are trying to make sure that they can shelter from the sun and heat during the day and have access to regular clean water,” he added.
Water is trucked in every day from the nearby city of Qaladiza. Ambulances and medical staff also visit the settlements when needed.
Some of the forcibly displaced people and local authorities told UNHCR that the shelling was nothing new. “This has been happening every year at the same season for many years,” said Mohamed, adding that he had had to flee his village at least seven times in the past five years. Iranian troops have been in conflict with anti-government forces on the border for years.
“The difference this year is that the shelling is reaching our villages. Before this, the shells landed more in the surrounding area,” said Mohamed, who was worried that he would not be able to return to his village to harvest his fields and take care of his 30 goats.
Most of the displaced earn a living from farming and rely on their harvests and livestock as their main source of income. Some have lost orchards and beehives due to the shelling. “We don’t want to be dependent on others but we have no choice now,” said Mohamed. “It is impossible to return permanently to our homes at this time.”
Some were also worried about their children’s education when the school term begins in September. “We just need stability for our children,” said 28-year-old Aveen. “We are tired of this constant displacement.”
Rasul said he was watching television in the village of Suney when a rocket hit the next room. “It was pure luck that nobody was hurt,” the 56-year-old said, while showing UNHCR the damage and fragments of shell.
School buildings and several houses in Suney were also damaged by shelling. One shepherd was killed and three injured following cross-border shelling on Sunday in Sidakan, which is located in Erbil Governorate.
UNHCR is ready to provide humanitarian assistance to more displaced families in other border areas. Several hundred families are reportedly displaced in the Erbil towns of Haji Omran and Schoman. Many are staying with relatives or host families.
By Helene Caux in Gojar, Iraq
I am about to return to Iraq in some days, after almost five months on missions in Cote d’Ivoire and Libya for UNHCR. My colleagues in Baghdad already warned me it is 47 degrees centigrades every day! I spent July and August of last year there and the temperature was reaching 57 degrees…..
I took this picture some months ago in Al-Waleed camp, in Anbar region, at the border with Syria. These Palestinian refugee women were suffering a lot from the heat. The camp is located in a very arid area.
Refugees in Iraq camp to enjoy more services, rights after registration
News Stories, 4 July 2011
MAKHMOUR CAMP, Iraq, July 4 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency and the Iraqi government have entered the final phase of registering refugees in Iraq with the recent completion of registration in Makhmour camp in the north.
The nationwide registration of refugees in Iraq was initiated by the government in 2008 and seeks to give the refugees a wider range of rights and services, including access to education and health care, and the right to work and travel.
Those registered to date include Palestinian refugees in Baghdad and Mosul as well as Syrian refugees in Mosul. The latest phase of the exercise was completed in Makhmour camp last weekend, registering a total of 10,240 Turkish refugees who received residency documents for the first time.
“It is quite an achievement,” said Tarik Kurdi, UNHCR’s deputy representative for the Iraq operation. “This registration is about building confidence internationally in the civilian nature of the camp.”
Makhmour’s inhabitants fled Turkey into Iraq in 1994. They first stayed in Atroush camp near the Turkish border, then split into two groups in 1997. Between 4,000 and 5,000 refugees moved to local settlements in the governorate of Dahuk and Erbil. A larger group relocated to Makhmour camp, which today looks like a small town with mud-brick houses and several shops selling food.
The recent registration was undertaken by Iraq’s Ministry of Interior Permanent Committee for Refugee Affairs with help from UNHCR.
“In Makhmour, UNHCR has been assisting in the organization of the whole registration process, including training ministry staff for the collect of data, and providing the appropriate technical equipment,” said Iraj Imomberdiev, UNHCR’s acting head in Erbil. A UNHCR team of four to six people – including information technology officers – were present during the whole registration which lasted several months in the camp.
Highlighting the importance of the exercise, UNHCR’s Kurdi said, “The registration is a crucial step for refugees who will strengthen their refugee status by receiving a refugee residence card entitling them to several benefits, including travelling throughout Iraq without any restriction.”
The card is initially valid for one year and thereafter renewable for five years. With it, refugees can be issued a travel document allowing them to travel, for instance for students who want to study abroad. The refugees will also have access to Iraqi courts to register marriages. They will also have the right to medical services and education provided by the government, as well as the right to work.
Some 2,000 refugees from the camp already work in companies or as daily labourers in the nearby town of Makhmour or even in Erbil, 90 minutes away. With the recent the registration, they may be able to access government posts, an opportunity university graduates have requested for several years.
Registered refugees will also have the right to own land, property, cars and businesses. They can receive a public distribution system card from the government, which will entitle them to receive food rations as all Iraqi citizens and residents do.
UNHCR’s work in Makhmour includes monitoring the general situation and providing cash assistance on a case-by-case basis to the most vulnerable refugees, such as those with chronic illnesses. The agency also provides transport fees for young refugees studying in Erbil and Dahuk, and conducts protection and social activities for women and youth through two implementing partners.
Following Makhmour camp, UNHCR and the government of Iraq will soon start a new registration of refugees in Barikacamp, home to more than1,900 refugees from Iran.
By Helene Caux in Makhmour Camp, Iraq