Thousands more Iraqis displaced due to upsurge in fighting around Mosul

Thousands more Iraqis displaced due to upsurge in fighting around Mosul

 

Over 14,000 Iraqis have been displaced from their homes and registered in camps following a renewed offensive by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) against ISIL south-east of Mosul since late March this year. Mosul, the second biggest city in Iraq, has been under ISIL control for nearly two years, since June 10, 2014.

South-east of Mosul, populations have been fleeing ISIL-occupied areas on a daily basis as security forces move closer to the city. 800 people arrived in Debaga camp for displaced families in Erbil Governorate on 3 June, after a dangerous journey through minefields. Since the hostilities between ISIL and governments forces resumed on March 24, more than 8,000 people from villages located east of the Tigris river have been registered in the camp.  Debaga is now full and an extension site at a nearby stadium and adjacent areas, to house nearly 600 families, is being prepared by UNHCR and partners, in collaboration with the government.

“There are no safe route for IDPs escaping the violence and families use secondary routes, mostly at night, crossing dangerous terrain, and reports that some IDPs are trapped, severely injured or killed in minefields on their way to safety,” said Frédéric Cussigh, Head of Field response unit in Erbil Governorate.

“The level of trauma among IDPs arriving to Debaga is great. UNHCR and partners teams are working to help families gain a sense of normalcy through psycho-social counseling services and emergency support.” 

An eventual assault on Mosul could result in a massive displacement, upwards of 600,000 people. UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies have been drawing up contingency plans to respond.

In addition, there has been an influx of around 6,700 Iraqis who have entered Syria’s north-eastern Hassakeh governorate using local smuggling networks since April.  They include families who have managed to escape Mosul and those who have left surrounding areas, anticipating more fighting. 

The journey is hazardous, with families often travelling at night.  IDPs report being constantly fearful of landmines and of being caught by ISIL during their journey, which can take up to a week.

UNHCR teams and partners in Syria are identifying new arrivals, and carrying out regular needs assessments to co-ordinate assistance. They include some 5,400 who arrived in the past few months and are staying at the newly reactivated Al-Hol camp in Syria.

Families have said it was impossible to move from Mosul to Central Iraq and believed it would be easier to access safer areas of Iraq by first entering Syria. However, so far, they have not so far gained permission to cross back into Iraq. 

UNHCR has been coordinating a cross-border response with its offices based in KR-I (Iraq) and Qamishli (Syria) in order to counsel displaced Iraqis and follow up on their case individually.

In Iraq, protection teams carry out daily visits to the border, speaking with families and the authorities, to get information on cross border movements and trends. 

Border monitoring has been carried out by UNHCR since 2012, at the start of the major influx of Syrian refugees entering Iraq in search of safety and asylum.

“The impact of Mosul’s fall two years ago still reverberates in Iraq and across the region”, said Bruno Geddo, UNHCR Representative in Iraq.  “Around 10% of the population of Iraq have been displaced due to conflict, much of it resulting from families fleeing violence.”

“We can only hope that 2016 will mark a turning point, so that displaced families can start to return home, rebuild their lives and look forward to a better future.”

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For more information, please contact:

·         In Erbil:

Chloe Coves, External Relations Officer:  coves@unhcr.org  + 964 771 994 5599

Yousif Mahmood, Executive Assistant: mahmood@unhcr.org  +964 770 670 0815 

·         In Baghdad:

Caroline Gluck, Senior Public information Officer: gluck@unhcr.org   + 964 780 920 7286

Reem Suwaed, Public information Associate: suwaed@unhcr.org   + 964 780 195 8468