04 Sep 2012

Syrian Refugees in Iraq – Latest Updates

Al-Qaem border crossing is still closed.

A pregnant Syrian woman died on Monday September 3rd, at the Syrian side of Al-Qaem border crossing point. A day earlier 3 young boys, suffering injuries also died. The children arrived at the border three days previously, already suffering injuries. The stranded Syrians, including the pregnant woman who needed assistance as she was about to give birth, received no assistance from the Iraqi side, while the border remains closed, reported al-Anbar NGOs Council.


In a separate incident, one child died on September 2nd, also on the Syrian side where the refugees are still stranded. Apparently the child suffered an asthma case during a sand storm.


Al-Qaem border crossing has been closed since 16 August and there has been no increase in the number of Syrian refugees, which remains at 15,898 according to UNHCR (28 Aug 2012).


According to local NGOs, a total of 350-400 Syrian families are stranded on the Syrian side of this border. The refugees were trying to enter Iraq, fleeing the violence in the Syrian city of Der El-Zur when the Iraqi side closed the border and erected concrete barriers (4 meters high and 40 meters wide) on the morning of August 21st, to block the entry of Syrian refugees. The move was criticized by Iraq's parliamentary human rights committee, and described as a move against human rights principles.


On September 3rd, Al-Jazeera reported “al-Qaem border crossing is expected to be re-opened by the Iraqi authorities as soon as a new camp is established as the first one is already fully occupied.” Indeed, a new camp is currently under construction.


While the Al-Waleed and Rabiya border crossing points remain open UNHCR is advocating with the government that the Al-Qaem border be reopened. The Kurdistan Regional Government re-opened its borders to allow the entry of Syrian refugees two days after closing the borders, according to a security source in Duhok quoted by Radio Nawa. The source confirmed on September 2nd, that the decision to close the border crossing was taken as a security measure. Tens of Syrians entered the KRG through the Fishkhabour crossing point on the Syrian-Iraqi borders as soon as it was re-opened.


Al-Qaem Camp – Needs Registered

The Al-Qaem camp hosts almost 2,000 refugees and is being expanded. Another 1,700 refugees staying in schools are expected to be relocated to the camp very soon to allow classes to resume, according to UNHCR. In Al-Qaem, an Emergency Coordination Cell has been established by the Iraqi Government to plan for the movement of all Syrians who sought refuge in Anbar (mostly hosted in schools) to the UNHCR refugee camp, 5 km from Al-Qaem. The process has already started.


One international NGO and the Love and Peace Forum (a National NGO) visited the border city on Thursday 30 August 2012. Meetings were held with the representative of the Ministry of Displacement and Migration Mr. Salam Khafaji, UNHCR and Islamic Relief staff who are managing the camp.


Both NGOs conducted a needs assessment at Al-Qaem Camp that is hosting the Syrian refugees and visited the location where the new camp is currently under construction to receive the increasing numbers of refugees.


According to the Love and Peace Forum, the needs at the current camp included:

  • Children and enfant milk;
  • Diapers;
  • Children food supplements (soup and wheat);
  • Drinking water;
  • Medical treatment (chronic diseases);
  • Additional sanitation facilities;
  • Cookers to go along with the food baskets that will be distributed soon, replacing the hot meals distribution system.
  • Winter clothes.



For their part, the Syrian refugees in Al-Qaem camp voiced frustration of their situation, saying that the inconvenient conditions they have to endure will dissuade other Syrians from seeking refuge in the Iraqi territories.

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