Wednesday, 15 June 2016 03:00

UNHCR joins forces with the Kurdistan Regional Government to support urban communities hosting large displaced populations

Erbil, Iraq, 15 June 2016 - The findings of the Erbil chapter of a regional profiling exercise for out of camp populations were officially presented by UNHCR along with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and various humanitarian and development partners gathered in Erbil.


The study, “Displacement as Challenge and Opportunity”, addresses the need for an in-depth analysis of urban displacement. Its impact on both displaced and host populations in the Governorate is scrutinized with the objective to guide future long-term responses to the urban challenges created by large-scale displacement.

Local authorities have been involved in the exercise from the inception and welcomed the approach as innovative since few available studies take the host population’s perspective into account and the vast majority focus on camp population.

“We see the profiling exercise as an essential first step,” said Mr Nawzad Hadi, the Governor for Erbil Governorate. “And we look forward to developing a sustainable response alongside humanitarian partners to improve the living standards of all urban population groups living in areas most impacted by the arrival of large numbers of displaced persons in the Governorate.”

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I) has seen a 30% population increase since the beginning of the crisis in Syria in 2011, as Syrians started fleeing civil war in their country. This was followed by larger waves in late 2013 and 2014 as Iraqis fled to KR-I, escaping armed conflicts in other governorates such as Anbar and Ninewa. Today, the KR-I hosts over 1 million displaced persons, putting pressure on the region’s limited resources, particularly with respect to the provision of public services, at a time when the regional government is facing severe economic challenges.

In Erbil Governorate today, 25% of its 2-million population is either a refugee or a displaced Iraqi, with an overwhelming 95% of the Governorate’s displaced families living out of camp – 72% in the case of Syrian refugee families. In some areas like Baharka or Shaqlawa, the population has doubled since 2011, drastically changing the fabric of the community: IDPs and refugees now make up almost 50% of the local population, creating obvious challenges for public services to address population needs in those areas, and social tensions.

“Most of the displaced population live in urban areas, along with the local population,” said Jozef Merkx, UNHCR Coordinator for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I). “It is crucial to have an area-based approach which takes into account the perspective of host communities, and the response capacity of the government, in order to design relevant, comprehensive response plans.”

Exploring creative ways of responding to local population needs, the study covers the impact of recent displacement waves from five angles: urban spaces and social cohesion, employment, households’ financial situation, education and challenges to return home. Recommendations range from easing administrative procedures for displaced populations, to creating bridging programmes for displaced students willing to attend school after a period out of formal education.

“The goal is to bolster living conditions of urban communities heavily impacted by the recent waves of displacement, irrespective of status,” said Bruno Geddo, UNHCR Representative in Iraq. “And this can be done when displaced people are empowered to become productive members of the society.”

Profiling studies are on-going in Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk Governorates, and the respective chapters will be published in the second half of 2016.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 13 September 2016 20:32

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