ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Thousands more refugees fleeing a Turkish military incursion into northern Syria are expected to arrive in the Kurdistan Region, adding to the roughly five thousand already there, regional Interior Minister Rebar Ahmed said on Sunday.
The comment came during a joint press conference by Ahmed and Marta Ruedas, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, following a meeting between the two.
“We expect the arrival of another wave of refugees as a result of the deteriorating situation in Syria,” said Ahmed, stating further that the Kurdistan Region had received about five thousand refugees since the Turkish attack began and called on both Iraq and the international community to provide more assistance to house and provide services for those recently displaced.
For her part, Ruedas said the UN would “make an effort” to aid the Kurdistan Region shelter the influx of refugees in available camps.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the Kurdistan Region has hosted over a quarter of a million refugees, most of whom are Kurds. That number has fluctuated depending on the developments in the country, the most recent being the October Turkish attacks.
The Kurdish-led northeastern part of Syria saw relative stability after the Syrian Democratic Forces cleared their territories from the Islamic State earlier this year. Uncertainty and fear gripped many civilians over the past 11 days, especially those residing near the Turkish border, as Ankara launched its long-threatened incursion southward.
The widely denounced Turkish assault has purported aim of confronting the Kurdish military leadership of the SDF, the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG). Ankara considers the YPG terrorists for alleged connections with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The PKK has fought a decades-long insurgency against Ankara over Kurdish rights in Turkey, which has suppressed them since the state's creation in the early twentieth century. In its campaign of countering the PKK, Turkey has destroyed thousands of Kurdish villages and killed scores of civilians in airstrikes and bombardments. The PKK is also alleged to have killed a number of civilians in their own operations against the national army.
Turkey aims to carve out a so-called “safe zone” in northern Syria cleared of YPG fighters that is 32 kilometers below its border and about 440 kilometers wide. It has said it also seeks to settle close to 3.6 million Syrian refugees there, many from other parts of the country, leading to the displacement of local Kurds, Arabs, and other groups.
On Friday, the Kurdistan Region’s Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (JCC) pleaded for more emergency funding after the first two thousand refugees had arrived.
Hoshang Mohammed, Director General of the JCC, told Kurdistan 24 that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) needs “immediate emergency funding for the required preparations to manage the influx of refugees and provide basic life-saving assistance to those who just arrived.”
“As we are approaching the harsh winter season, we have to step up and move quickly. We call upon all donor countries, UN agencies, and international NGOs” to provide additional aid.
Editing by John J. Catherine