Iraqi Kurdistan sets limit on Syrian migrants | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 20.08.2013
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Middle East

Iraqi Kurdistan sets limit on Syrian migrants

Iraqi Kurdistan has limited Syrian refugees in the territory to 3,000 refugees a day. About 30,000 refugees have poured into Iraq since Thursday, the UNHCR reported.

According to the UN refugee agency up to 3,000 had lined up to cross on Tuesday, the latest migrants in an influx that began last Thursday, when Kurdistan regional government authorities in northern Iraq opened access across the newly built Peshkhabour pontoon bridge. Authorities have now reserved the bridge for commercial traffic and directed refugees, mostly Syrian Kurds, to use the Sahela crossing to the south, the agency reported.

"This new exodus from Syria is among the largest we have seen in the conflict," UNHCR spokesman Dan McNorton told reporters. "Those people crossing this morning ... are drained, they are hot and thirsty, they are walking on a long dirt road as we speak in a long line," he said.

More than 1.9 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries and North Africa since the uprising began as a series of peaceful protests in March 2011 and the country quickly descended into civil war. Fleeing bombardments and sectarian tensions in the country's north, including in Aleppo and Efrin, Syrians have arrived in Iraq exhausted, with many children dehydrated from walking in the scorching heat. Children made up nearly half the estimated 4,800 people who crossed on Monday, the UN Children's Fund announced. UNICEF has identified at least 80 unaccompanied teenage boys sent across the border by their families for safety or to find work.

"Many are below 12 years old, and the younger ones were particularly dehydrated and exhausted after the four- or five-hour walk across the border in the scorching heat," UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said.

'Allowed to cross'

The International Organization for Migration has provided food and water upon arrival, as well as transport for refugees to three transit facilities and plans to deploy an ambulance to ferry the sick from the border to camps.

"The Kurdistan regional government authorities have put a daily quota for those refugees who will be allowed in," the IOM's Jumbe Omari Jumbe told reporters in Geneva. "Today they will allow 3,000 persons in, but yesterday a similar quota of 3,000 was set but, at the end of the day, 5,000 refugees were allowed to cross."

Jumbe said the migrants feared attacks by rebels including the al Qaeda affiliates al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which have fought Kurdish groups in recent months for control of parts of northern and northeastern Syria.

mkg/kms (AFP, AP)