UN responds to Rojavan call for support, delivers aid to IDPs and Iraqi refugees

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Iraqi refugees receiving winter supplies in al-Hawl Camp, northeast Syria. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Hasakah – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) delivered humanitarian aid to al-Hawl Camp on Monday. The sprawling encampment shelters civilians who have crossed into Northern Syria – Rojava (NSR).

“The UNHCR has delivered life-saving assistance to al-Hawl Camp, which included winter supplies. The aid was distributed by the UN Refugee Agency in cooperation with the camp’s [staff],” Hozan Mahmo, a camp administrator, told ARA News.

“This aid was urgently needed as winter bites and Iraqi refugees continue to cross the border, heading to Rojava after escaping war-torn Nineveh Governorate,” Mahmo explained.

Al-Hawl is located near the Iraqi-Syrian border, in northeastern Hasakah Governorate.

Hazim Ahmed, a 43-year-old refugee from Mosul, told ARA News that his group had “arrived in al-Hawl Camp nearly one month ago, after escaping the escalating violence in Mosul.”

Ahmed said that the rundown “camp had lacked basic supplies.” Still, he remained “thankful to the Rojava administration for providing shelter, and grateful to the UNHCR for providing winter assistance.”

According to the al-Hawl Camp directory, more than 6,000 Iraqi refugees have crossed into NSR territory. The camp’s staff had appealed to the international community, seeking aid in order to shelter “as many displaced Iraqi civilians as possible.”

Impassioned Appeal for Aid

In November, Northern Syria – Rojava asked the UN to provide short-term assistance to help those fleeing from the Islamic State (ISIS). The de facto autonomous region also charged its local committees with assisting the civilians who reached Hasakah.

While their intentions were altruistic, Rojavan authorities struggled to care for the 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,” Redur Khelil, the People’s Protection Units’ (YPG) spokesman, said in an earlier statement. “We need urgent help from the UN and other relevant organizations.”

The Kurdish officer also reported an increase in the number of IDPs fleeing violence and starvation in the would-be Caliphate. “The self-administration can’t deal with this crisis due to the ongoing embargo,” the YPG spokesman explained. “[We] need an international campaign.”

The UN’s refugee agency and a few NGOs did come forward to support the IDPs and refugees but their resources were 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.”

Demining the Road into Rojava

As ISIS jihadists withdrew from northeastern Syria, they planted landmines in residential areas and along public roads. Unmarked explosive devices have killed dozens of people in Hasakah Governorate.

Casualties have been especially high in the countryside and along the Iraqi border where civilians are often unaware of the danger. The landmines also hamper resettlement efforts and preclude crop cultivation.

Responding to the challenge, Northern Syria – Rojava established the Roj Organization to demine the governorate. The organization was founded 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 border so refugees can safely cross into NSR territory.

“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.”

Reporting by: Qehreman Miste, Siber Haci, Ahmed Shiwesh and Heysem Heci | Source: ARA News

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