Erbil, Iraq 26 January – With no let-up to the war in Syria, UN, humanitarian and development agencies in Iraq have appealed for $298 m in ongoing assistance for nearly 250,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq.
The appeal was made at the launch of the Iraq chapter of the Syria Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) in Erbil today, attended by H.E. Dr. Ali Sindi, Minister of Planning, Kurdistan Regional Government. Also in attendance were Minister Falah Mustafa, head of the department of Foreign Relations, KRG, as well as key government and humanitarian agencies, and donors assisting refugees in Iraq. The Kurdistan Region in Iraq hosts 97% of the Syrian refugees, as well as more than one million Iraqis displaced due to conflict.
The response plan for Iraq is committed to continue providing continued protection and assistance to Syrian refugees, to meet their basic needs. It also recognizes the need to increase the resilience of refugees as well as host communities and calls for a greater investment in education and increased opportunities for vocational training and livelihoods.
In opening remarks, Dr. Sindi said that efforts by his government to host the refugees should be more widely acknowledged and supported by the international community. “97% of the total number of Syrian refugees is in Iraqi Kurdistan- this is something that the people of Kurdistan need to be acknowledged for and encouraged to continue to do.”
He said the financial crisis facing his government, prompted by a fall in oil prices, was putting the authorities under greater pressure. “All organisations need to consider that the financial crisis has led the host community to face very great challenges. The appeal for $300 m for Syrian refugees does not cover the real needs of those people”
Around 38% of Syrian refugees in Iraq live in ten camps directly supported by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, UN agencies and non-governmental partners. But the majority of refugees live in precarious informal settlements or with host families. The response plan acknowledges that help to refugees living outside of camps has been insufficient and needs to be improved.
One key to do so is to provide cash grants to vulnerable individuals, particularly those living outside of formal camps, who may not have access to assistance. There are plans to improve long-term shelter options, improve access to education and address the limited access of refugees to the labour market.
“I would like to highlight the extraordinary generosity of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq; 25% of the population today is made up of displaced Iraqis or Syrian refugees”, said UNHCR’s representative to Iraq, Bruno Geddo. However he said the generosity was being “sorely tested” as the Syria crisis entered its sixth year and the region grappled with an economic downturn.
“The KR-I and the international community will face a double challenge in 2016. As well as the need for continuing support to up to 1.5 million Syrian refugees and Iraqi displaced, it is possible that 2016 will bring new waves of mass displacement, as Iraqi forces try to retake control of Mosul – Iraq’s second biggest city”.
The 3RP is a strategic attempt to improve the lives of refugees and the most vulnerable communities at a time when so many are embarking on dangerous journeys to Europe or back to Syria.
The conflict in Syria remains the world’s largest protection crisis. The total Syria Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) 2016 amounts to $4.55 billion, aiming to support more than four million people forced to flee Syria into neighbouring countries and the communities in which they are being hosted.