Syrian War Refugees Still Arriving in the thousands in Iraqi Kurdistan

By RUDAW – 24.8.2013 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Since Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region reopened its border to Syrian war refugees last week – after nearly three months of restricted access – the march of mainly Syrian-Kurdish refugees has continued unabated, with another 2,000 arriving on Thursday.

They were received by authorities and sent to camps set up in the past week, adding to the 150,000 mainly Syrian Kurdish refugees who are overwhelming the Kurdistan Region’s ability, which complains of having to cope with such numbers without little outside aid or assistance.“Compared to the past few days, this is the smallest number of refugees to come across the border into Kurdistan,” Shawkat Barbuhari, chief administrator of the border area told Rudaw, referring to the latest arrivals.Since the reopening, more than 10,000 Syrian Kurds have crossed the border into the safety of the Kurdistan Region and settled in makeshift camps in Duhok, Erbil and Sulaimani provinces. Syrian Kurds have succeeded in largely staying out of a war that has afflicted the rest of the country for more than two years.

But recent clashes between the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and jihadi fighters of al-Qaeda’s al-Nusrah Front in Syria’s Kurdish areas has sent many Kurds fleeing their homes.

Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, who ordered the reopening of the border, vowed earlier this month to intervene and defend Syrian Kurds against Islamist attacks. He urged Syrian Kurds not to leave their cities. “Deserting western (Syrian) Kurdistan would only serve the Kurds’ foes,” the president said on his Facebook page. He asked Syrian Kurds who have not left, to remain where they are. Barzani promised that his “government would do its best to help them with whatever they need.”

He added that Kurds who have fled their homes in the face of attacks and war are welcome in the Kurdistan Region, but “those who are in areas that are not affected by war should stay in their ancestral land.”Also on Thursday, Barzani asked the Kurdistan Region Government (KRG) to allocate 20 percent of its budget to assist with the refugees. Families across the Kurdistan Region have donated money, food and other basic needs for camp refugees, via charity organizations.  Erbil businessman Zimnako Yassin opened his heart and his wallet, donating $1 million on Thursday.