Iraq crisis: Yazidis refugees trapped on Mount Sinjar are facing imminent 'genocide' from IS militants, UN warns

Downing Street has confirmed it will be helping the supply lines of military equipment to Kurdish forces fighting the Islamists

political correspondent

The United Nations has warned that a mass atrocity or genocide of refugees in the Mount Sinjar region of northern Iraq could still happen “within days or hours”.

The UN's special rapporteur who has been investigating the plight of 40,000 mainly Kurdish-speaking Yazidis who fled to the mountain fearing attacks from the extremist militants of the Islamic State (IS), said the world urgently needed to recognise the severity of the humanitarian crisis.

Following the decision to deploy Tornado jets from RAF Marham in Norfolk to Iraq to aid surveillance of the zone where the refugees are trapped, the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, after chairing another meeting of the government's emergency response committee, Cobra, announced that Chinook helicopters were also being sent to Iraq.

However there are no indications that Britain will be following the US and adding to air strikes against IS targets.

Downing Street confirmed it will be helping the supply lines of military equipment to Kurdish forces fighting the Islamist forces that now control a third of Syria. But it was made clear that the UK will not be supplying arms directly.

An image issued by the Department for International Development showing people on Mount Sinjar collecting aid dropped by the RAF over the weekend An image issued by the Department for International Development showing people on Mount Sinjar collecting aid dropped by the RAF over the weekend
The Yazidis trapped in sweltering conditions in the exposed mountain region, many of them surviving without food or water for days, are among the quarter of a million religious minorities who fled their homes after “convert or die” ultimatums from the IS militants.

A draft UN report on the humanitarian crisis has cited women being executed, captured, branded as slaves, and sexually assaulted.

Three RAF missions involving the dropping of essential supplies to the refugees have now taken place. More are being planned for the rest of this week and beyond.

The problems that led to an earlier aborted operation, cancelled out of fear that civilians on the ground could be hit, now seems to have eased.

The Department for International Development (DfID) said the latest missions involved dropping over 3,100 reusable water purification containers and 800 solar lamps that can be used to charge mobile phones that would aid direct communication with the refugees.

Downing St confirmed these air drops would be continuing, with a spokesman adding: “As part of our efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Iraq, we are sending a small number of Chinook helicopters to the region for use if we decide we need further humanitarian relief options. Meanwhile urgent planning to get those trapped on the mountainside to safety will continue in the coming days between ourselves and US, the Kurdish authorities and other partners.”

Iraqis from the Yazidi community at the Iraqi-Syrian border at Fishkhabur, where thousands have fled Iraqis from the Yazidi community at the Iraqi-Syrian border at Fishkhabur, where thousands have fled (Getty)
Christof Heyns, the UN's special rapporteur who examines the threat from arbitrary executions, said the international community must do all it could to protect the lives of those on the ground in Mount Sinjar.

Another UN official, Chaloka Beyani, said the world was witnessing “a tragedy of huge proportions unfolding in which tens of thousands of people are at immediate risk of death or violence by hunger and thirst.”

The UN urged that humanitarian aid now had to be delivered quickly.

Although the UN's office in Irbil has reported that some Yazidis have managed to escape from the northern side of the mountain region and crossed into Syria, the horrors of those still trapped have been described as an imminent “genocide”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own