Statement on the World Refugee Day

20 June 2021

Erbil Kurdistan Region- Iraq

On the World Refugee Day, we express our sympathy and support for the plight of Refugees in Kurdistan Region-Iraq and work continuously to meet their needs and provide them the opportunities they need to unlock their potential to rebuild their resilience and lives. We continue working and cooperating with all local, federal and International partners to mobilize political will and resources so that refugees can not only survive but also thrive.

The continuation of the civil war in Syria since 2011 has prompted millions of people to seek safety in the neighboring countries including Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Approximately 262,000 Syrian refugees fled to the Kurdistan Region and have remained under the protection of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) ever since. Today, 40% reside in ten refugee camps in Erbil, Duhok and Slemani governorates of the KRI and the rest are hosted within local communities.

The sorrow and despair of Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region has continued for the ten years. The plight of Syrian refugees and the stresses it has placed on host communities has become an underserved crisis at the regional and international levels. It is the shared responsibility of all sides including the international community to ensure that the plight of these vulnerable refugees remains unforgotten.

As these refugee families had left everything behind, were extremely vulnerable and entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance when they arrived and even today. The local population launched fund-raising campaigns and opened their homes to refugee families and the KRG is spending 147 million US dollars from its budget for humanitarian assistance and basic services to the refugees since 2012, while the annual financial cost for hosting such many people is approximately 900 million US dollars.

This collective response from the government and local population was based on the KRG’s rights-based policy that granted freedom of movement, residency and work permits and free access to the region’s public services including healthcare and education services. The KRG’s rights-based policy remains unique in granting extensive rights and opportunities for the refugees. Our policy has yielded important results in terms of safety and security for the refugees, social cohesion in the region and sustainable refugee management. Our refugee management model has demonstrated that even in the middle of a crisis, sustainable refugee management is possible and yields better results at a lower cost.

Today, the Kurdistan Region hosts more than 930,000 displaced individuals of which (665,828 IDPs) and (261,985) refugees. Overall, our region is host to 99% of the Syrian refugees in Iraq and 65% of the current internally displaced Iraqis. The nature of the crisis in Syria and Iraq has turned displacement protracted, preventing the majority of the refugees from returning to their homes. In addition, The Kurdistan Region has incurred a devastating economic cost following rising insecurity in the Middle East and Iraq over the past decade. Moreover, five years of a costly war against ISIS, the drastic drop in oil prices, the cost of hosting large displaced populations and the financial impact of the political dispute between Baghdad and Erbil as well as the dire economic, social and financial consequences of the outbreak of the covid19 have all contributed to crippling the KRG's financial stability.

 

As a regional government, the KRG lacks access to international financial institutions and other opportunities to secure required funds to support refugees. In the face of such restrictions, the KRG is not able to secure the required resources to address the challenges of a protracted displacement while responding to new emergencies and waves of displacement including the new refugees from Syria and IDPs from areas once under the ISIS. Therefore, increased funding and continued financial assistance is critically needed. We remain committed to the rights-based policy and will continue to do everything that we can to alleviate the suffering of the refugees and provide security, protection, services and opportunities.

On the World Refugee Day, we appeal to the donor countries, UN Agencies and international NGOs to pay attention to the refugees in our region and to invest in the sustainable and rights-based model that we have adopted. We need international assistance in order to continue alleviating human suffering and provide services and opportunities, health care, education and livelihood to the population under our protection.  

We reiterate our commitment to continue our cooperation and coordination with all partners such as donor countries, United Nations Agencies, International NGOs and development agencies to ensure effective assistance and service delivery and resiliency building for the refugees.

Finally, we express our thanks and appreciation for the donors and all partners for the continued cooperation and assistance provided to the refugees in Kurdistan Region-Iraq.

 

Joint Crisis Coordination Centre

Ministry of Interior

Kurdistan Regional Government-Iraq