A 'river' of refugees flows out of Syria as Iraqi Kurdistan opens border

 

Beirut

Tens of thousands of refugees from Syria’s Kurdish-majority north-east have streamed into Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern Kurdistan region after authorities opened the border ending months of limited access.

Claire Bourgeois, the top representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Iraq, referred to “a river of people coming towards the border” in an email today.

On Thursday, when the border was opened, around 5,000 refugees crossed into Iraq. Upwards of 10,000 arrived on Saturday. Today saw an additional 5,000 or 6,000 refugees entering the country according to Adrian Edwards, a UNHCR spokesman in Geneva.

“It’s a really big number to see in such a short space of time in just one area,” he said.

While Syria’s oil-rich northeast had been relatively quiet for much of the country’s two-year civil war, there has been an rise in fighting between Kurds and jihadist factions in recent months. 

Jihadist groups Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Qa’ida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant want to “expel all the Kurdish people from Syria” said Alan Semo, a UK-based representative from the Democratic Union Party, Syria’s most dominant Kurdish faction. Such groups are “opening a war against all the Kurds,” he added.

Last week, Iraqi Kurdistan’s President Massoud Barzani said that he would “be prepared to defend” Syria’s Kurds if they were threatened by such groups, a statement many read as a suggestion of possible military intervention.

Before authorities reopened the border, UNHCR had registered 154,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq. The agency has counted nearly two million Syrian refugees across Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. It remains unclear why the Kurdistan Regional Government changed its border policy and allowed the flood of refugees to enter. The border opening caught UNHCR and other groups assisting refugees off-guard, said Mr Edwards.

 Liene Veide, a UNHCR associate information officer based in Erbil said that her organization and others were focused on giving refugees water, food and shade as they arrived on the Iraqi side of the Tigris River.

As Syria’s Kurds get dragged further into Syria’s bloody civil war, uncertainty remains whether this will mean the rate of refugees entering Iraq will hold now that the border has reopened. “We have no idea what can happen tomorrow,” said Ms Veide. 

Others expect more arrivals as the quality of life in Syria’s north-east declines. “People have been suffering from a lack of basic needs and they think they will be safe and get some help or relief in Iraqi Kurdistan,” said Mr Semo.

UN inspectors arrive in Syria

A team of UN weapons inspectors has arrived in Damascus for a long-delayed mission to investigate the alleged use of chemical arms in Syria’s civil war.

President Assad’s regime and the rebels have traded accusations over the purported attacks. Negotiations over allowing experts into the country dragged on for months before the UN and the Syrian government finally reached a deal last week.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

Recruitment Genius: Implementation Consultant

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

Recruitment Genius: Implementation Consultant

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Coordinator

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent