Displaced civilians from Mosul. File photo

ARA News 

AMUDE – This week, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) started to build a new camp to host nearly one thousand newly displaced people who’ve fled fighting in Makhmour district, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I).

Kurdish officials have warned that thousands of displaced people will head to the Kurdistan Region due to the future Mosul offensive against the Islamic State (ISIS).

The US defence officials have stated that Mosul and Raqqa are a priority for the anti-ISIS coalition. US president Barack Obama told CBS news that he expects Mosul to fall at the end of this year.

“As the secretary has pointed out repeatedly, and others have pointed out, Raqqa and Mosul remain extraordinarily important objectives that we are focused on,” Army General Joseph Votel of the US Central Command said in a press conference. 

“And there will be other areas that we will have to work on, as well. But those two [Mosul and Raqqa] remain extraordinarily important to us,” Votel added. 

So far, 79 displaced families (376 individuals) have moved into the site. The camp is located in the grounds of a football stadium in Debaga near Makhmour in Iraqi Kurdistan.  The facility will be expanded to shelter around 550 families. 

The site was built in response to increasing numbers of newly displaced families at an existing camp in Debaga, which is now hosting around 8000 people. The families had fled villages east of the Tigris river to avoid being caught up in military clashes as the Iraqi Security Forces supported by Kurdish Peshmerga forces carried out operations to re-take control of villages held by the ISIS extremist group.

As many as 30,000 newly displaced individuals may arrive in Makhmour over the coming weeks as the military offensive continues, according to the UN If the real battle for Mosul starts, hundreds of thousands of civilians will most likely flee the city towards the Kurdistan Region. 

“The newly-built facility will help to ease some of the overcrowding that we have seen since the latest fighting began”, said Fred Cussigh, head of UNHCR’s field response unit in Erbil.  “People had been living in difficult conditions, with several families having to share a tent in some cases.”

New arrivals moving to the stadium site received mattresses and kitchen sets from UNHCR as well as kerosene for cooking, drinking water and basic food items from UNHCR’s partner, the Barzani Charity Foundation.

The agency is also drawing up contingency plans to be able to prepare for further fresh displacements. “The likelihood is that we will see increased numbers arriving and we are currently looking at other areas where we could establish new camps if necessary, capable of sheltering up to 20,000 individuals”, said UNHCR’s Fred Cussigh.

There are currently 3.4 million Iraqis displaced due to conflict in the country.  More than one million are sheltered in the Kurdistan Region.

Speaking to ARA News, Peshmerga Commander Sirwan Barzani said: “We have more than 1 million refugees and we are not even a country.”

Barzani stressed there should be more financial support for the Kurdistan region and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

“There will be more [displaced people] after the Mosul operation, and if the Iraqi army crosses the river [into Qayarah], thousands more will come,” Barzani told ARA News. 

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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