What is the Situation for Syrian Refugees in Iraq's Kurdistan Region?


The Kurdistan region of Iraq has taken in the great majority of Syrian refugees that have crossed the eastern border into Iraq.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), it is estimated that approximately 97% of displaced Syrians who have sought refuge in Iraq have settled in the Kurdistan Region. A large proportion, estimated to be around 70,000 people, live in camps set up to accommodate the influx of refugees from Syria. The rest have settled in the cities of Erbil, Duhok or Suleymaniyah. Altogether, there are around 250,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq.

The most recent influx of refugees has come as a result of the Turkish-backed military offensive in northern Syria, as a result of which hundreds of people from the region have left their homes and have crossed the border into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).

The KRI has largely been spared the recent protests that have broken out in Baghdad and the south of the country. It has also been fairly secure and safe, even during the period of ISIS’ ascendance, which was concentrated in the central and northern provinces of Iraq outside of the KRI.

This has provided the Syrian refugees with a stable environment in which to find refuge and to even make livelihoods. For instance, these Syrian women, who fled the civil conflict in their country, managed to set up small businesses in Duhok.

Currently, the highest number of Syrian refugees is found in neighbouring Turkey, where it is estimated that over 3 million Syrians are settled. The majority are residing in Istanbul, although the recent expiration of a deadline for temporary protection has meant that thousands are being sent to other parts of the country.

Aside from the Syrian refugees, the KRI has taken in displaced person from across Iraq, mostly those who have fled areas subject to ISIS attacks over the past few years. Some of the Iraqis from other parts of the country have made the KRI their home and have built positive relations with local people. For instance, Iraqis displaced to Duhok have been known to make positive contributions to the local economy.