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.