Even with coronavirus travel restrictions, 34,000 fled Iraq in 2020


ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An Iraqi refugee organization announced on Friday that 34,000 people have emigrated to other countries of the world during the first two and final three months of 2020, when coronavirus travel restrictions were either not in place of most lenient.

The rate of Iraqis leaving their home country decreased or completely stopped with the tightening of anti-coronavirus health measures, such as the imposition of isolation and quarantine rules, plus bans on both international and interprovincial travel.

“Due to the political and economic crises that have afflicted Iraq and the Kurdistan Region between 2015-2020, the number of those who migrated to Europe at the age of 18 or older reached 596,273 individuals, 251 of them who died along the way," said Ari Jalal, director of the Summit Foundation for Refugee and Displaced Affairs, at a press conference held on Friday at the group's headquarters in Sulaimani. 

"The number of people who remain missing has reached 173 individuals."

Jalal added, "During the five-month period (January, February, October, November, and December) of 2020, due to the coronavirus crisis and the suspension of flights, the number of those who migrated reached 34,000, the number of those who died was 18, and 17 individuals remain missing.”

The Summit Foundation is a non-governmental organization based in the Kurdistan Region's Sulaimani province that advocates for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Due to the war with the Islamic State, ongoing political and economic instability, and a host of other reasons in recent years, many Iraqis with the resources to flee abroad have done so. 

Many have done so by sneaking into Turkey to then try to find a corridor into Europe. However, a significant number of those attempting to pass by smugglers' boats across the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece have died at sea.

Editing by John J. Catherine