Syrians in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Photographs by Eduardo Soteras Jalil, interviews by Rowena McNaughton, Danish Refugee Council
In late February, when winter temperatures still clung to the days, parents around the Syrian refugee camps in Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), echoed the same response when asked what their teenage children did each day: Qias almukhayam tawal alyawm (Measuring the camp all day long).
Sitting, face to face, on the thin coloured mattresses that form the central, and often only, furnishings in most of the tents scattered across the nine refugee camps in KRI, parents admitted worryingly that their childrens lives have become one of inactivity. The fact that their own predicament mirrored their childrens appeared secondary in importance.
Over 39 per cent of Syrian refugee children aged 15-17 are not attending school in Iraq. Until recently, secondary education options did not exist. And while Syrian refugees in KRI can legally work if they have a residency permit, competition from the hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis also seeking refuge in KRI, the economic slow-down the oil price free-fall has induced, and few jobs, have made it increasingly difficult for any Syrian to make a living in KRI. Personal savings, after five years on the move for many Syrians, have now long dried up. Of the 246,000 refugees from Syria in Iraq, almost all are living in KRI.
Ground down by the protracted exile and the limbo of living in a refugee camp, the United Nations Refugee Agency reported that some 25,000 Syrian refugees left the KRI last year. Despite the fact that Syrians are welcome in the KRI where they live in so-called five star refugee camps, many more are expected to follow this year. Most have returned back to an uncertain life in Syria or, continue on to Europe in search of a better life. Germany in the Spring has become a cry for Syrians in Refugee Camps in KRI, determined to not waste their life in idleness.
Danish Refugee Council
The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) is a humanitarian, non-governmental, non-profit organisation founded in 1956 that works in more than 39 countries throughout the world. DRC fulfils its mandate by providing direct assistance to conflict-affected populations- refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs) and host communities in the conflict areas of the world and by advocating on their behalf internationally and in Denmark.
DRCs vision for the regional programme in the Middle East and North Africa reflects the global vision to work towards the protection and promotion of durable solutions to refugee and displacement problems, on the basis of humanitarian principles and human rights. The overall goal of DRCs strategy for the Middle East and North Africa is: to support and strengthen a regional protection framework for displacement-affected communities throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Danish Refugee Council - Lebanon
In 2003, following the advent of military operations in Iraq, DRC became one of the first organisations to provide humanitarian assistance, opening an office in Diyala and soon after in Basra. Today, DRC Iraq has extended its operations to nine governorates across the country with offices based in Anbar, Baghdad, Dohuk, Erbil, Karbala, Kirkuk and Najaf. Key program areas include; Emergency Response and Preparedness, Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM), Protection, Sustainable Livelihoods and Social Cohesion, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Shelter. The program manages four Syrian refugee camps with UNHCR in the KRI.