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Refugee arrivals in Kurdistan exceed 40,000; greater numbers expected in coming days

By Rudaw 3/11/2016
Mosul refugees at Khazir camp. Photo by Hejar Jawhar
Mosul refugees at Khazir camp. Photo by Hejar Jawhar

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—Kurdish and UN aid workers in the Kurdistan Region say that they prepare to receive greater numbers of displaced families from Nineveh Plains as the battle for Mosul is likely to continue inside the city where close to a million people still reside.


Representative of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Erbil told Rudaw they plan to set up additional camps across the Kurdistan Region for the new arrivals.


"We expect many more to come and we have indeed other plans for new camps," said Hawre Abdulla at the UNHCR.


"We have divided the region into several zones where each zone will be provided with a camp," Abdulla added.


But the refugee arrival has been far less than the 200,000 that were predicted to flee Mosul in the first three weeks of the operation.


Kurdish officials have said many of the liberated places in Nineveh were already deserted before the operation for Mosul began and when clashes reach populated areas, a new wave of refugees will head north and south of the province.


Nearly 800,000 displaced families sought refuge in Kurdistan Region in mid-2014 when the ISIS gained control of large parts of central and northern Iraq.


There are currently around 1,8 million refugees from Syria, Turkey and Iraq in Kurdish administrated areas in Iraq.


Aid workers have said that 10 new refugee camps have been set up in the two Kurdish provinces of Dohuk, Erbil and the township of Khazir. 


The arriving refugees say many families are reluctant to leave their homes in Mosul fearing ISIS militants would demolish their houses if they flee the city in retaliation. 


"People are afraid of leaving their homes because of ISIS gunfire and landmines. They are not sure either who will receive them at the other end: the Iraqi army, the Peshmerga or the Shiite militia," said a refugee woman in Khazir camp near Syrian border.


Rudaw correspondent Bahman Hasan who is embedded with Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi said earlier that the advancing Shiite troops took many of the Sunni men for security checks after their villages were liberated.


Hasan said Hashd officials did not provide details as to where the men were taken, but their families were transferred to nearby camps south of Nineveh.


Earlier this week Kurdish security officials rejected reports of "unlawful detention" of arriving refugees in Kurdistan Region and announced that only "people who have been collaborating with ISIS" will be detained for further questioning.


"These people are very tired and hungry when they arrive," said Badradin Najmadin, the manager of Khazr camp.


"We give them bread and warm food before they are registered at the local security office (Asayish) and after that we give them their basic needs like mattresses, blankets and their daily meals," Najmadin said  

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