Internally displaced Iraqis in Dibaga camp. Photo: Farzin Hassan/Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region -- Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Ministry of Interior rejected on Friday claims from Iraq’s Minister of Migration Darbaz Muhammad that the number of refugees in Kurdistan stands below 1 million people.
In a Friday night interview on Rudaw TV, Muhammad cast doubt on the actual number of refugees and internally displaced people (IDP) in Kurdish controlled territories and said that the number was declining as IDPs were gradually returning to their liberated areas.
"The number of the Iraqi IDPs in the Kurdistan Region is well below 1 million people with the overall number falling daily," Muhammad said explaining that over 1.3 million IDPs had already left camps across Iraq and returned to their homes.
The minister also said that in addition to Iraqi IDPs, there were around 230,000 refugees from Syria currently based in camps across the Kurdistan Region.
Director of the migration office at the Kurdish Ministry of Interior Shakir Yaseen, however, rejected the Iraqi minister's data, insisting that the number of refugees and IDPs was close to 2 million.
Yaseen told Rudaw some 52,000 people had fled Mosul clashes to Kurdistan since the operation began last month adding that authorities expected greater numbers as the operation unfolded.
He said the Kurdistan Region had received two waves of IDPs from Iraq over the past years starting with 230,000 people fleeing to Kurdistan between 2003 and 2004 after the collapse of former regime.
"These refugees live outside the camps and share the KRG's public services as any resident in the Region," Yaseen said.
"The second wave was following the ISIS offensive in Iraq in 2014 after which 1,672,000 took refuge in Kurdistan," he added.
Yaseen said in addition to the Iraqi displaced the Kurdish cities have hosted 243,000 refugees from Syria, 16,000 from Turkey and nearly 8,000 from Iranian Kurdistan. This, according to him, puts the real number of refugees and IDPs above 2 million people.
Minster Muhammad told Rudaw that the relief efforts to help refugees from Mosul had so far been well organised and "unprecedented in Iraq" with aid workers prepared in advance to receive the fleeing families.
"We even prepared buses to transfer the refugees from liberated areas in Mosul to the camps," Muhammad said praising the aid agencies.
The KRG's official data puts the number of IDPs and refugees at 1.9 million people, the majority of whom live inside refugees camps in the three provinces of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaimani.