Syrian refugees pour into Iraq: No one was ready for this
By Tue Jakobsen, Communications Officer, Save the Children in Iraq
In the past few days close to 30,000 people have crossed over from Syria into northern Iraq following the re-opening of the border.
Many of these refugees are now living in the Kawergosk camp, even though it’s still being built. Conditions are harsh, with frequent sand storms, limited water, and not enough tents yet for the sudden influx of people arriving.
Stepping out of the tent and breathing in the fresh air brings a sense of relief – and makes me shiver for a few seconds.
But the only reason the dusty and 40°C air of northern Iraq seems fresh to me is that I have just spent 30 minutes inside one of the newly set-up tents in the Kawergosk refugee camp in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
“How can anyone live in those tents?” I ask myself.
While I’m outside the tent a harsh dust storm arises. Everyone around me covers their faces. At first I just stand there, fascinated by the sight.
But when the storm hits me I understand why other people were quick to react. Suddenly I have sand in my mouth, my nose and my eyes, and the hot wind fills my lungs.
People living here experience this every 15 minutes. As one family told me, the water supply is insufficient to bathe their children.
Just two days ago I was on the newly re-opened Syria–Iraq border as exhausted families came across with only what they could carry.
Since Thursday close to 30,000 people have crossed over. The UN estimates that 7,500 of them are now living in the Kawergosk camp.
But the camp is still under construction. Big trucks and heavy construction vehicles fill the roads. You see some children playing outside, but most are kept close by a parent.
“This isn’t a safe place for children,” one mother told me.
I’d have to agree.
This new refugee influx has pushed both the regional Kurdish government and aid agencies to their limits.
Save the Children distributed food and other basic items on the border a few days ago. We’re now working with the UN and other aid agencies to coordinate our efforts and provide the help so desperately needed.
Iraqi–Kurdish TV has launched goods and food collections. In one of the few quiet moments I had today, I watched 15 minutes of the TV show trying to mobilise support from among the Kurdish people.
I hope it succeeds.
On the way back from Kawergosk camp to another camp, Domiz, I pass by 20-25 buses carrying Syrians who crossed the border today.
With no tents ready for them in Kawergosk I wonder where these families will spend the night.
I think it is safe to say that no one was ready for this.