Since the start of military operations in October 2016 to liberate the City of Mosul, the number of internally displaced persons, IDPs, who have taken refuge in the Kurdistan Region has risen to 164,000 people. They are mainly located in camps in Erbil and Duhok Governorates.
In an interview with Kurdistan Regional Government website, Hoshang Muhammad, General Director of the Joint Crisis Coordination Centre, JCCC, of the Ministry of Interior, stated that approximately 10,000 people are displaced daily from western Mosul. A significant number of them are sheltered in camps in the Kurdistan Region.
He added that IDPs from liberated eastern Mosul continue to enter the Kurdistan Region due to poor security and lack of services in the newly liberated areas.
Hoshang Muhammad noted that “existing IDP camps in Erbil Governorate are filled to capacity and can no longer admit new IDPs unless earlier IDPs return to their liberated areas in and around Mosul”.
Duhok Governorate has only 8,200 tents ready to receive new IDPs, but is unable to admit more IDPs because of severe financial difficulties.
He pointed out that “the operation has put a tremendous strain on the Kurdistan Region’s service sectors. For instance, more than 35,000 injured people from the military and civilian population have received medical treatment in Erbil and Duhok hospitals.”
Number of civilians still under ISIS control
According to the JCCC director, “An estimated 400,000 civilians are trapped in areas currently under ISIS control. A new wave of IDPs is expected to arrive in the Kurdistan Region once door-to-door combat commences in older parts of Mosul City.”
He stressed that “the Kurdistan Region cannot bear another big wave of IDPs because the camps are filled beyond their capacity. Further, the KRG faces severe difficulty in providing additional basic services, including food, water, health, education and shelter.”
Hoshang Muhammad, who is also in charge of cooperation between Erbil, Baghdad, and the United Nations said, “Until this point, there has been inadequate assistance to the Kurdistan Region from the Iraqi Federal Government and the international community.”
According to JCCC director, in 2016 the Iraqi Government allocated funds only to cover the cost of the creation of four IDP camps in Erbil and Duhok governorates, and in 2017 a limited amount were given for the management of the camps.
He added that with the efforts and cooperation of all the local private organizations and public institutions, “we have been able to offer relatively adequate assistance and provide basic provisions such as security and protection as well as basic services.
“To maintain such services, however, the KRG needs urgent and direct financial assistance. The KRG foresees that the IDPs will remain in the Kurdistan Region for a longer period than anticipated due to war-torn infrastructure and lack of security in the liberated areas. As a result, the impact on the KRG continues to mount.”
Hoshang Muhammad pointed out that only 22 percent of the KRG’s actual humanitarian needs were met by the international community through relevant UN agencies. The rest of the humanitarian requirements are met by the KRG itself.
Apart from the cost of the management of the Mosul IDP camps and the provision of basic services, a single IDP requires 3.70 US dollars per day, which is more than 18 million US dollars per month.
Return of IDPs
The JCCC director pointed out that only 41,000 people, or 8,500 families, have returned to Mosul since the start of the operation to liberate the city. The figures and process for returning IDPs to liberated areas in Mosul and surrounding areas remain low and slow moving, respectively. This is due partly to the deteriorating security situation and the lack of basic services as well as the threat of terrorism.
The Government of Iraq does not seem to have a plan and does not provide any financial assistance to refugees so they may return to their homes. Furthermore, the process is further complicated due to the regulations of the Iraqi Government in terms of giving authorization to IDPs so that they may return.
The Kurdistan Regional Government is actively assisting IDPs to voluntarily return to their homes. The process of voluntary return, however, has been made much more difficult without a concrete and comprehensive plan to assist in the operation as well as efforts of reconstruction of the liberated areas. There is no coordination between Baghdad and KRG’s Ministry of Interior on the issue of voluntary return, security, and reconstruction.
To address this issue, the KRG Minister of Interior, Mr. Karim Sinjari proposed the creation of a commission that includes Baghdad, Erbil, and the United Nations to design and implement a stronger strategy, mechanism, and detailed plan in dealing with returning refugees as well as the reconstruction and security of liberated areas. However, neither Baghdad nor the United Nations have responded to such a suggestion.
Number of IDPs
According the Joint Crisis Coordination Centre, nearly 1,341,450 displaced Iraqis reside in the Kurdistan Region. A number of them are settled in 38 camps, while the rest, which are the majority, are living in the cities and town in the Kurdistan Region.
At the same time, the Kurdistan Region hosts more than 97 percent of all the Syrian refugees in Iraq. Among them, 228,567 are registered at the relevant agencies while 25,000 others remain unregistered. Sixty one percent of the Syrian refugees are settled in nine camps in the governorates of Duhok, Erbil and Suleimaniya.