Iraq, April 1, 2017
Conditions in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Mosul are not suitable enough for the displaced to live in “humane conditions,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres during a visit to a camp near Mosul Friday morning. He said the international community needs to express more solidarity with Iraq. Guterres visited Hassan Sham camp in Erbil province amidst visibly tightened security measures following his visit to the Kurdish capital on Thursday. “This is a visit of solidarity with the people of Mosul who have suffered the oppression of ISIS in terrible conditions and that are now suffering from the military operations that are needed to defeat terrorism in Mosul,” Guterres said in the camp some 30 km east of Mosul. He was accompanied by the Kurdistan Region’s Interior Minister Karim Sinjari, Head of Foreign Relations Falah Mustafa, Erbil Governor Nawzad Hadi, and Iraq’s Minister for the Displaced and Migration Darbaz Mohamad. Guterres said that the people of Mosul “have suffered enormously and they go on suffering,” and urged the international community to provide more support for the authorities in the Kurdistan Region to help improve conditions in the camps where hundreds of thousands of people have taken shelter since the arrival of ISIS some two and half years ago. “There is a huge effort by the regional government [of Kurdistan], a huge effort by the NGOs, a huge effort by UN agencies but we don’t have the resources that are necessary to support these people,” Guterres added. The international community, he said, needs “to express deep solidarity with Iraq,” adding that the UN programs are funded by less than ten percent. “Unfortunately our programme here is funded at only 8 percent. That shows how limited our resources are compared to the tragedy these people are facing.” He said the Iraqi and Kurdish forces are fighting for “our security everywhere in the world,” as terrorism has become “global.” The UN chief went on to say that there is a need for reconciliation between communities and “reconciliation at national level as soon as Mosul is fully liberated.” This is the second time Guterres has visited Kurdistan. He made his first visit in 2014 as the head of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, when he accompanied the then-UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Iraq’s minister for the displaced Darbaz Mohamad told Rudaw that the UN has “played a big role” in helping to accommodate the displaced people, a role that is “profound and important.” Mohamad added that they ask the UN to first continue this role and second to operate in liberated areas damaged by the ongoing war against the extremist group. “What is important to us is that from these camps [in the Kurdistan Region] and those south of Nineveh, so far 95,000 people have returned to their own areas, that they had fled,” Mohamad said. “What remains is about 300,000 people, the majority of whom are in southern Nineveh... These people as well should return in a short time, as planned.” Erbil Governor Nawzad Hadi, who said that some 700,000 Syrian refugees and Iraqi displaced people are currently residing in his province, said that the UN should help with improving conditions in the camps, as they do not know how much longer these people will remain displaced. “We do not know how much longer they stay in these camps,” Hadi told Rudaw. “We hope that the right bank of Mosul will be liberated, in which case, the people should go back quickly.” The Kurdistan Region has sheltered 155,117 Iraqis displaced by the Mosul offensive, Hoshang Mohamed, director of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Joint Crisis Coordination Centre, told Rudaw earlier this week. Mohamed announced on Tuesday that the four camps in Erbil province, including Hassan Sham, are full and only limited space remains in Duhok province. Guterres met with President Barzani in Erbil on Thursday. A statement from the Kurdish presidency said that the UN Secretary General told the Kurdish President that international support for the Kurdistan Region has been “insufficient.” “The international community has been insufficient in its support for the Kurdistan Region with regard to the reception of the displaced,” the presidency’s statement quoted Guterres as saying, adding that the UN head “makes every effort he can to raise international support for the Kurdistan Region with regard to the issue of the displaced.” Barzani “considered helping the displaced a humanitarian and patriotic duty, saying that the Kurdistan Region had no excuse to not carry out that duty,” the statement continued. Guterres, when he was the UNHCR Commissioner, warned in December 2015 that Syria and Iraq may cease to exist within their present borders unless a swift end to the Syrian war – then in its fifth year – is found. "If the conflict does not end quickly, this might be the end of Syria as we know it – and the same is true for Iraq," Guterres said at the United Nations in New York at the time. The Syrian conflict is now in its seventh year and more than 5 million Syrians have registered as refugees with the UNHCR.