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Rudaw

Opinion

Kurdistan’s refugee camps ease Europe’s burden

By Paul Iddon 15/9/2015
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Earlier this month Germany said that it expected 800,000 refugees to arrive in that country by the end of the year and that it could take in an additional 500,000 per year if need be.

Very substantial figures. Hence many articles and assessments on how this influx of migrants may affect Germany demographically, economically and socially.

However, a large and wealthy country like Germany with approximately 82 million people is more than capable of gradually absorbing such big numbers. Especially compared to the small Kurdistan Region that has had to deal with the massive influx of 1.6 million displaced Iraqi Arabs, Christians and Syrian Kurds for more than two years.

Syria's neighbours have also taken in many Syrians displaced by that horrible war. Turkey—a large country with a similar population to that of Germany—hosts the most at around 2 million. Lebanon's small landmass and population is most affected by approximately 1.2 million refugees, and in Jordan more than 600,000 Syrians have registered with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

As host to so many refugees, the Kurdish region is facing many similar, if not greater, challenges as those other countries.

The ISIS war brought to the Kurdistan Region hundreds of thousands of refugees from Mosul, Tikrit, Diyala and from as far away as Ramadi and Falluja. They may be technically categorized as Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) since they went from one part of the country to the other, but the burden on Erbil to provide shelter, safety and food is immense.

Kurdistan's problem is much more like Lebanon's than Germany's or Turkey's considering its own small size and the enormity and sudden influx of the refugees.

The refugees and migrants arrive in Europe in a slow process and smaller numbers compared to the frantic exodus of hundreds-of-thousands who showed up at the Kurdish borders during the ISIS blitzkrieg.

This burden on the KRG is worsened by the decline in oil prices and Baghdad’s economic and budget war with Erbil for more than a year where civil servants and even the Peshmerga soldiers go for months without pay.

Furthermore, many of these newcomers are seeking permanent residency since they don't see the situation in their areas changing or the war with ISIS ending any time soon.

Absorbing so many refugees, even gradually, would be a tough task, and the demographic and social impact on such a small region enormous.  

Now, as Europe grapples with its refugee crisis they shouldn't forget Kurdistan Region holding back such huge numbers and the fact that by doing so it has eased Europe’s burden.

The European Union can reduce the number of refuges and migrants showing up on its borders and the risks they take at sea by supporting refugee camps in the Middle East, especially the Kurdistan Region which is under financial strain from Baghdad and constant threat from ISIS yet has left its doors open to those seeking shelter.

Paul Iddon is a freelance journalist and political writer who writes on Middle East affairs, politics, developments and history.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.

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