Qamishli – Thousands of Iraqi civilians from Mosul City and other parts of Nineveh Governorate have crossed the border into Syria over the past few weeks, and many of them were sheltered in the al-Hawl Camp in Hasakah Governorate.
“A new batch of Iraqi refugees headed to Rojava [Syria’s Kurdish region] seeking a safe haven after escaping the war-torn Nineveh Governorate, especially with the intensifying violence in Mosul City,” Hozan Mahmo, a member of the Hawl Camp administration, told ARA News.
“At least 200 new families crossed the border into Rojava in the past two days. We received them in the al-Hawl Camp and provided them with food and shelter,” Mahmo said.
According to the directory of the al-Hawl Camp, the number of Iraqi refugees in Rojava has exceeded 6,000. The directory has earlier appealed to the international community to provide aid to the camp in order to be able to shelter “as many displaced Iraqi civilians as possible”. “The camp suffers from shortage of basic supplies,” it said.
The Kurdish-led Self-Administration of Rojava confirmed that its local committees in Hasakah have provided thousands of Iraqi families with shelter.
The Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi Army troops, supported by an air cover from the US-led coalition, started on October 17 a battle for Mosul to expel militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) from their main bastion in northern Iraq.
Call For Support
The Rojava self-administration has asked the UN to provide short-term assistance. The aid would be used to help those fleeing from the Islamic State (ISIS) and into a growing number of displacement camps.
The de facto autonomous region has struggled in recent weeks to care for a massive influx of refugees from Mosul city and internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor Governorates.
“The number of refugees from Mosul has been increasing in Rojava [Syria’s Kurdish region],” Redur Khelil, the People’s Protection Units’ (YPG) spokesman, said in an ear;her statement. “We need urgent help from the UN and other relevant organizations.”
The Kurdish official also reported an increase in the number of IDPs fleeing from ISIS-held areas in Syria into NSR cantons. “The self-administration can’t deal with this crisis due to the ongoing embargo,” the YPG spokesman said. “[We] need an international campaign.”
Syrian Kurds have been providing a safe haven for thousands of refugees, mostly Arabs who have fled violence and starvation in the would-be Caliphate. The UN’s refugee agency and a few NGOs have been supporting the refugees in Northern Syrian – Rojava but their resources are limited.
“When the Mosul liberation operation started, civilian refugees began fleeing the brutality of terrorism in Mosul. [They] have arrived in Rojava, mainly in al-Hawl,” Aldar Xelil, co-chair of the Democratic Society Movement, said last week. “Tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees are expected to arrive.”
Clearing Iraqi-Syrian Border of ISIS Explosives
As the ISIS jihadists have been forced to withdraw from main areas in northeastern Syria, they planted landmines near communities and along public roads. Unmarked explosive devices have killed dozens of people in Hasakah Governorate near the Iraqi border, especially in the countryside where civilians are often unaware of the danger. The landmines also hamper resettlement efforts and preclude crop cultivation.
Responding to the challenge, the Kurdish-led Rojava Self-Administration has established the Roj Organization to demine Hasakah Governorate. The organization was established four months ago, with a modest budget and a staff of Kurdish volunteers. Their work is exceptionally dangerous.
The Roj Organization has recently started working near the town of al-Hawl. The demining volunteers want to clear the Iraqi-Syrian border so refugees can safely cross into NSR territory. Their work has taken on added urgency, as thousands of people have fled the war-torn city of Mosul.
“We came to the al-Hawl to dismantle the landmines [and thereby] make a secure passage available for Iraqi refugees,” Malik Ahmed, a Kurdish volunteer in the Roj Organization, told ARA News. “Those people need a safe passage, and we are doing our best to assist them.”