Channel NewsAsia

Displaced Iraqis face difficult living conditions at Kurdish camp

The ongoing incursion of the militant group Islamic State in Iraq has pushed over one million Iraqis out of their homes, and nearly half of those displaced have sought refuge in the country's Kurdish region.

KHAZIR CAMP, Iraq: The ongoing incursion of the militant group Islamic State in Iraq has reached a new level of violence as the US carries out its airstrike campaign. The conflict has pushed over one million Iraqis out of their homes and nearly half of those displaced have sought refuge in the country's Kurdish region which until now has remained out of the insurgents' reach.

At one of Kurdistan’s largest refugee camps, Khazir Camp, displaced Iraqis are facing difficult living conditions. Mr Ibrahim Jafar and his family are among more than 500 families living in the camp – the refugees fled there after their neighbourhoods were overrun by militants in June.

“There is no life here. It’s dusty and hot. We are tired here. We want to go back to our homes,” said Mr Ibrahim. His wife, Ms Arima Hamza, meanwhile said a lack of freedom of movement is causing her deep emotional distress. “My family is in Arbil and I have not seen them. I cannot see them. It’s been five months since I last saw them,” she said.

The conditions inside the tents at the camp are unbearable. Even though the temperature is 45°C outside, people there do not have air-conditioners or even fans, and the kitchen is almost empty without anything to cook with. Residents also have to cope with daily sandstorms and a stinking open sewage, while electricity is a luxury they enjoy only for a few hours at night. Another critical issue is the lack of proper health services - the small hospital at the camp cannot offer much beyond basic treatment.

One refugee at the camp, Ms Suriya Ismael, had brought her granddaughter to a tent to get some cool air, but that is not possible because the power is out. “She has injuries and suffers from asthma. She is an orphan and has lost her mother,” said Ms Suriya.

Iraq's northern Kurdish region has stayed safe despite the violence in other parts of the country, prompting nearly half a million Iraqis to seek refuge there. Authorities say they are struggling to cope with the mass influx of refugees. Mr Rizgar Mustafa, mayor of Khabat, said: “The government in Kurdistan is facing a financial crisis because the central government in Baghdad has cut our budget for seven months. It has cut the civil servants’ salaries.”

The government is planning to build a new camp with better living conditions, although it is not clear when the new camp will be ready. Life is not easy for the refugees at Khazir Camp, but they may have to make their homes there for some time to come.