Displaced Iraqis in al-Hawl camp, Syria, hope to return home


Located in northeastern Syria, al-Hawl is accommodating displaced Iraqis from Nineveh Province who fled the ISIS onslaught between 2014 and 2017.

An estimated 14,000 displaced Iraqis currently live in al-Hawl refugee camp, situated south-east of Hasakah City in northeastern Syria. Many of the displaced Iraqis living in the camp fled their homes across Nineveh Province between 2014 and 2017, as a result of the ISIS occupation and the subsequent battle to eliminate the militants by the Iraqi Security Forces.

Despite previous aid deliveries to the camp by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at the request of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the camp’s residents accuse the UN and other humanitarian organisations of not doing enough to alleviate their suffering. In addition, the camp’s residents want more to be done by the UN to help stabilise Iraq following the formal defeat of ISIS militants in December 2017.

“We appeal to humanitarian organisations and the UN to bring us back to our country and homeland,” said one of the camp’s residents. “Now, as you can see, Iraqi refugees suffer from a lack of houses and clothes. We also have difficult health conditions and there are no schools.”

Security operations are ongoing across Iraq to eradicate remaining ISIS hotbeds and prevent the militant group from turning into an insurgency. In Nineveh in April, 22 militants were killed in an operation by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).  In addition, ISIS still maintain a pocket of territory in Syria adjacent to the Nineveh border, which has fuelled cross border incursions by the militants.

The SDF and ISF have been coordinating to secure the ISIS controlled border region, with the ISF reinforcing the Iraqi side of the border as well as conducting unprecedented airstrikes on ISIS in Syrian territory over the past month. However, despite the increased efforts by the security forces in both Syria and Iraq, the presence of ISIS is still a destabilising factor for Nineveh Province, preventing many of the people currently residing in al-Hawl camp from returning home in the foreseeable future.