UNHCR Briefing Notes

Geneva, 20.08.2013

This is a summary of what was said by the UNHCR spokesperson at

today’s Palais des Nations press briefing in Geneva.


1-    Thousands of Syrians flee into Iraq’s Kurdistan region, major

influx continuing


Since Thursday of last week around 30,000 Syrians have streamed into

northern Iraq after fleeing communities across a wide swathe of northern



Yesterday’s (August 19th) crossings numbered more than 4,800 people,

at Sahela some 120 kilometres northwest of Mosul. Some of those coming

across were from Malikiyye city in the neighbouring Syrian governorate

of al-Hasakah. They told us they had fled reported bombs earlier that

morning. Others arriving over the past few days have been from further

west, including Efrin and Aleppo, as well as Al Hassake and Al



With several tens of thousands of people having crossed since last

week, this new exodus from Syria is among the largest we have so far

seen during the conflict, which is now into its third year. As well as

people who told us they were fleeing recent bombings, others say they

were escaping fighting and tension amongst various factions on the

ground. Also cited was the collapse of the economy due to war and the

resulting difficulties in caring for their families.


The influx began last Thursday when the Kurdistan Regional Government

authorities in northern Iraq suddenly opened access to the temporary

Peshkhabour pontoon bridge north of Sahela, allowing several hundred

people camped in the area since earlier last week to enter Iraq. By the

end of that day and into the following morning thousands of people had

swarmed across the swaying bridge over the Tigris. As of Saturday, UNHCR

now estimates that 20,000 Syrians had crossed the Peshkhabour bridge.

This was followed by crossings of around 6,000 persons on Sunday when

fleeing Syrians were directed to use the Sahela border crossing, to the

south of Peshkhabour.


In response to the influx UNHCR and partner agency teams have erected

shelters to provide shade. Water and food distributions have also been

set up at the crossing points. The International Organisation for

Migration and the Kurdistan Regional Government have provided buses and

trucks to move the thousands of people onwards from the border zone

deeper into Iraq.


In Erbil Governorate, further to the east, UNHCR has established a

transit site at Kawergost, to the north of Erbil town and in Khabat

District. One thousand one hundred UNHCR tents have been erected there

along with 200 tents assembled by the International Rescue Committee.

The Kawergost transit site is now sheltering some 7,000 to 9,000

Syrians. The President of the Kurdistan Region, Massoud Barzani, visited

the transit site yesterday.


Over the past days UNHCR has dispatched more than 90 trucks carrying

aid from Erbil. Relief items have also been distributed, including

tents, plastic tarpaulins, sleeping mats, blankets, kitchen sets,

hygienic supplies, water tanks, portable latrines, portable showers and

electric fans. However, because of the scale and speed of the influx,

some people at Kawergost are still without tents and having to camp

under tarpaulins or other makeshift shelters.


Yesterday, the authorities provided access for UNHCR to a warehouse in

Bahrak and 2500 Syrians are now being housed at this facilty. In

addition, additional land has been identified in Erbil’s Qusthtapa

district where a further transit site will be established. As well as

those in tented accommodation, some 14,000 people are living with host

families or are encamped at mosques in the Erbil region.


Further to the southeast, at Sulaimaniyah, 4,000 people are currently

accommodated temporarily in 11 schools. As in Erbil, a temporary site is

being set up. Some 3,000 people who arrived yesterday (Monday) were

transferred to Sulemaniyah.



of this morning, a further 2000-3000 people were reported waiting

close to the Syrian side of the border, and expected to cross today. On

the Syrian side, the border at Sahela is under the control of Syrian

Kurdish forces. The Kurdistan Regional Government has identified an

additional site in Kushtapa where it has indicated that UNHCR may

establish a further transit camp.


To boost stockpiles of rapidly depleting aid supplies within Iraq,

UNHCR has sent 15 tractor trailer trucks to northern Iraq from its main

regional stockpile in Amman. That shipment, expected to arrive before

the end of the week, includes more than 3,100 tents, two pre-fabricated

warehouses and jerry cans. Additional supplies are currently being



Longer term, in cooperation with the Kurdish Regional Government, UNHCR

and its partners are building the Darashakran camp, which is expected to

be ready to accommodate refugees within a matter of weeks.


UNHCR built Domiz refugee camp near Dohuk, Iraq earlier this year.

Domiz, originally constructed to accommodate 15,000 Syrian refugees, is

currently overcrowded with more than 55,000 residents – meaning that new

arrivals are having to be accommodated elsewhere. Prior to this latest

influx, UNHCR had registered 155,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq.



Gisèle Nyembwe

Public Information Associate

Collaboratrice adjointe chargée de l’information

UNHCR Canada

Tel: (613) 232-0909 ext. 225

Mobile: (613) 986-4300

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