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UN High Commissioner António Guterres is in Iraq as part of a delegation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and ahead of tomorrow's pledging conference in Kuwait. This morning, they have been at the Kawergosk refugee camp near Erbil in northern Iraq, talking to refugee families and seeing the facilities. Kawergosk hosts 13,000 Syrian refugees who arrived in August 2013, amid the influx of some 60,000 people at the time.
The Kurdistan Region of Iraq is among areas in the region currently seeing arrivals of Syrians. Border crossing points there from Syria were all but closed from mid-September until the start of January, when the Peshkabour crossing was reopened.
Since then some 5,000 people have crossed, and several hundred now arrive every afternoon. Of these only around 900 have registered with UNHCR. These people are transferred to a reception centre where they are given basic assistance before being moved to the Gawilan refugee camp in transport provided by IOM. Other recent arrivals have arranged their own transportation and are apparently going to Erbil and Suleiymania to join families, while some proceed to Zakho and Dohuk.
Authorities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq have told us that they are adopting a flexible approach to the arrivals and those Syrians who do not want to stay as refugees can remain for up to seven days or approach the local authorities to legalize longer-term stay. Only 30 per cent of the Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq stay in camps, while the rest live in host communities. Currently Iraq hosts some 250,000 Syrians, of whom some 212,000 are registered as refugees.
Meanwhile, in central Iraq, UN agencies and Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration estimate that some 70,000 people have now been displaced by the fighting and insecurity in Iraq's Anbar Province. Most are in areas around Fallujah and Ramadi, but authorities in other central and northern provinces report the arrival of hundreds of displaced families there too.
Aid from UN and partner agencies has been reaching some of the affected communities since 8th January, and yesterday a further 12 trucks of UNHCR relief reached neighbourhoods around Fallujah, carrying non-food aid. The International Rescue Committee, UNHCR's main partner agency in the area, is doing distribution. At present, insecurity and access difficulties are still hampering the overall effort. The UN is advocating with the government of Iraq to ensure access to displaced persons and safe passage of humanitarian aid.
The displacement in central Iraq is impacting other regions of the country. Authorities in the northern Kurdistan Region of Iraq report that some 14,000 people have arrived in the last two weeks from Anbar. UNHCR is coordinating with the regional government to establish their locations and assess immediate needs. Although the displaced are said to be mainly accommodated with family or staying in hotels, we are coming across families living in abandoned houses and semi-constructed buildings that are in urgent need of assistance. At the request of the authorities in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, UNHCR and its partners are refurbishing a transit centre at Baharka to accommodate more displaced persons.
For more information on this topic, please contact:In Amman, Peter Kessler on mobile +962 79 631 7901 In Baghdad: Natalia Prokopchuk on mobile +964 780 921 7341 In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120 Dan McNorton on mobile +41 79 217 3011